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The Richmond Observer

Rockingham, Richmond County approve agreement for Energy Way wastewater project

By William R. Toler,

The Energy Way Industrial Park on Airport Road in southeastern Richmond County. Photo by Charlie Melvin - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — A deal between the city and county government moves a wastewater project related to the latest industrial park one step closer to fruition.

The Rockingham City Council on Tuesday approved a 40-year interlocal agreement with the Richmond County Government to provide wastewater service for the Energy Way Industrial Park south of Hamlet.

According to documents, the county would pay to extend the sewer line from the Energy Way complex, south of Hamlet, to Rockingham’s existing sewer system, with the connection point expected to be a 12-inch gravity sewer line near the intersection of Airport Road and Maple Street — around 6 miles. Once complete, the city would take ownership of the line.

As of last July, the county had secured $7.25 million in grant funding for the $9 million project. More than half of that ($4 million) came from an allocation in the state budget last year. Other grants include $1.5 million from the Golden LEAF Foundation and $1 million from the N.C. Commerce Industrial Development Fund.

The city is able to handle up to 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day, documents show. However, the county will be able to ask in the future for the city to take on up to 400,000 gallons.

If the city agrees to the surplus, it will not be able to charge more for new industrial park tenants or expansion than the current monthly charge, per the agreement.

The county will pay the city $1.25 million a one-time capacity charge for up to 200,000 gallons per day and future capacity charges will be determined in accordance with the state Public Water and Sewer System Development Fee Act.

Industrial park tenants will pay the “outside” rate — currently 175% of the in-city industrial sewer rate — for collecting and treating wastewater. The city will charge the tenants directly, according to the agreement.

According to City Manager Monty Crump, the city’s treatment plant was built in the late ‘60s.

Councilwoman Denise Sullivan lauded the foresight of earlier city leaders to plan ahead. Crump added that millions of dollars have been poured into the plant since the ‘80s.

“That fact that we’ve done it and still have some of the lowest water and sewer rates in the state … is really a testimony to a lot of councils’ good, sound judgment,” Crump said.

Crump added that the county “could not get in the wastewater business anywhere near what’s in this contract.”

A memorandum of understanding was approved in June last year.

“The big picture here is that this allows the county to go out and recruit industry and know that they’re going to have 200,000 gallons of wastewater capacity per day to serve that industry,” said Mayor John Hutchinson. “It’s a great piece of cooperation between the county and the city that allows, ultimately, for economic development, which benefits all the citizens.”

Councilman Steve Morris also praised the partnership between the two governments, which had a tense relationship just a few years ago.

“The state looks very favorably on cooperation … I’m glad to see it happening,” Morris said.

Crump said the county approved the agreement at a meeting earlier in the day.

According to Economic Developer Martie Butler, site development at Energy Way began in 2019 and it has the potential to bring nearly a dozen new industries to the county.

Butler said there is “a ton of interest” in the park, mainly from heavy power and water users.

Power plays a primary part in recruitment, with the Duke Energy Complex across the street poised to provide 100 megawatts of power instantly.

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