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Bailey to accept $500K loan for sewer work

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BAILEY — The town board is set to accept a new offer of $533,000 in state loans for sewer system rehabilitation.

Mayor Thomas Richards said he wished the money was in the form of a grant, but Bailey desperately needs to fix its sewer system one way or the other.

The loan is part of a funding project approved July 8 by the State Water Infrastructure Authority.

The state once offered a $2 ½ million loan with a $500,000 grant attached to help Bailey improve its sewer infrastructure, but that would have meant a $600 annual increase in water bills for every resident, so the town passed on the deal.

But the board will likely accept the new, smaller loan this time around, Richards said.

As of 2003, Bailey has been under a sewer moratorium by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality-imposed moratorium on new sewer system capacity, the second-longest sewer expansion ban in the state. The moratorium is a boon to environmental safety, but it limits growth, as new homes or businesses in town limits would require sewer service. 

Over the years, town officials have looked at connecting the sewer system to Middlesex or Wilson through the town of Sims.

The Middlesex connection isn’t a possibility, but connecting to Wilson is possible and likely the only way Bailey can get removed from the moratorium list, Bailey Town Commissioner Allen Daniels said at a recent town meeting.

Also offered loan money this time around is the nearby Wilson County town of Elm City. But with perhaps its only chance to escape a longstanding sewer moratorium, Elm City officials won’t accept a new state loan for system repairs because the town can’t afford it.

“At this time, we’re just not able to take on further debt,” said interim Town Administrator Dena Owens.

The state offered Elm City $1.9 million.

Elm City has been under a sewer moratorium since 1998. It’s the longest-running such ban in the state.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced the proposed Clean Water State Revolving Fund loans for Bailey and Elm City on Thursday as part of $194 million in loans and grants to 54 county, municipal and utility authorities for water and sewer system improvements across the state.

“North Carolina’s communities need strong, resilient water infrastructure to support economic development,” Cooper said in his announcement. “This funding provides water and wastewater improvements essential for clean water, public health and a brighter economic future.”

Created in 2013 under N.C. General Statute 159G-70, the State Water Infrastructure Authority is an independent body with primary responsibility for awarding both federal and state funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects. The authority is made up of nine members.