LINCOLNTON – Lincoln County Public Works Director Don Chamblee updated the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on a slew of water, sewer and solid waste projects during the third of four Fiscal Year 2020 budget workshops.
Treatment plant expansions
While there are a number of ongoing and planned projects designed to improve the capability and efficiency of the county’s utilities, the two most significant projects from a cost standpoint are the expansion of its water and wastewater treatment plants, which are nearing capacity as eastern Lincoln County continues to develop.
The plans, which have already been approved by the commissioners, are to double the capacity of each plant by expanding the existing facilities.
The water treatment plant, which is already under construction, will see its capacity increase from 3.99 million gallons per day (MGD) to 8 MGD at a cost of $14 million. Chamblee estimates a mid-2020 completion date for that project.
Capacity at the wastewater treatment plant will also be doubled, increasing from 3.3 MGD to 6.6 MGD at a cost of $26 million. The project, which is currently in its final permitting phase, is expected to wrap up in December 2020, according to Chamblee.
Water system improvements
The county water system, which serves more than twice as many customers as the sewer system, is set to undergo the most extensive improvements of the three county utilities.
“What we’re trying to do is improve the looping of our major water lines so that we have redundant ways of feeding the system if there is a main break on N.C. 16,” Chamblee said.
One major piece of creating that redundancy is the expansion and extension of the waterline that runs along N.C. 73.
In total, the project calls for a 24-inch line from Killian Creek to Ingleside Farm Road, a 16-inch line from Ingleside Farm Road to Lambs Way Road, a 12-inch line that would run along Ingleside Farm Road from N.C. 73 to Old Plank Road and a 12-inch line that would run along Old Plank Road from Ingleside Farm Road to the entrance of the Duke Energy Lincoln Combustion Turbine Station. Additionally, the construction of a booster pumping station enclosed in a precast concrete structure with a backup power generator will be included as well.
The expansion of the N.C. 73 waterline will tie in with the Duke Energy facility on Old Plank Road, which has been approved for expansion that will require the company to purchase more water from the county.
“That 73 line will allow us to loop and reach Duke’s (combustion turbine) plant a lot better,” Chamblee said. “They currently have 16 units out there that are about 80 megawatt units, and this new unit they’re putting in is 400 megawatts in a single unit, so it’s a rather large turbine … They mix the water with their injection system to run those turbines, so they’re going to be a big customer buying our water at the retail rate.”
The project, which is nearing the completion of its design phase, is scheduled to be bid out this month and completely finished before the end of the year. The work comes with a $7.6 million price tag, according to Chamblee.
The county will also be expanding its Reepsville Road waterline to provide an additional connection to the City of Lincolnton.
Lincoln County already purchases water from Lincolnton, and the Reepsville Road project will allow the county to flow an additional 500,000-700,000 gallons per day. The agreement between the two entities requires that the county purchase at least 111 million gallons per year, which Chamblee referred to as “minimal,” at a cost of $1.15 per 1,000 gallons.
The Reepsville Road project is a bit further behind in the design process than the N.C. 73 expansion, but is still expected to be bid out for construction this year, according to Chamblee. The project has been estimated at a cost of approximately $8.9 million, but the county has been awarded a low-interest loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund due to the project’s connection to Lincolnton’s utility.
Another project currently in the design stages is the construction of a 24-inch transmission line that would run from the county’s water treatment plant to its storage tank on Optimist Club Road.
“This provides another connection from the water plant directly to a tank,” Chamblee said. “Essentially, the tank becomes another distribution point so that if we do end up with any failure in the system, we’re still able to get water to that tank to continue servicing the rest of eastern Lincoln County.”
The transmission line comes with an estimated $10.59-million price tag, according to Chamblee. The project is likely to be bid for construction this year, with construction tentatively scheduled for 2020.
Bids for the construction of a waterline on St. James Church Road that would connect the N.C. 16 line to the Verdict Ridge area have come in over budget at roughly $2.6 million. In an effort to eliminate a portion of the project and lessen the cost, Chamblee is hoping to meet with the developers of a new residential neighborhood in that area who are already planning to connect to the N.C. 16 line.
The county is also in the midst of expanding the 12-inch waterline that runs underneath N.C. 16 to a 24-inch line in multiple segments over multiple years. In total, those expansions will come at a cost of roughly $1.2 million.
Rates and fees
In 2018, the previous Board of Commissioners voted in favor of levying rate increases on county water and sewer customers to help offset the cost of the improvements to the systems. That board decided to increase rates gradually over a period of three years, so sewer customers will see yet another 15 percent increase this year, while water bills will increase by 5 percent after a 6 percent jump last year. The commissioners didn’t want water customers subsidizing the sewer system, which is the reason for the discrepancy between the rate increases.
These increases mean that, in July, the county’s base water rate will rise from its current cost of $21.20 per month to roughly $22.26 per month. Similarly, the county’s base sewer rate will increase from $25.30 per month to nearly $29 per month.