By Jeanna Baxter White
Davie County and the Town of Mocksville are partnering on a long-term water strategy to secure the county’s water supply and to allow for economic growth over the next 20 or more years in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
Davie County owns and operates the 2.6 mgd (million gallons per day) Cooleemee Water Treatment Plant (WTP) in southern Davie County with an intake on the South Yadkin River. The Town of Mocksville owns the 3.0 mgd Hugh A. Lagle WTP with an intake on Hunting Creek. Both water treatment facilities are at the end of their useful life.
In November 2018, the county and town commissioned Hazen and Sawyer to develop a long-range water strategy, including an evaluation of potential water supply alternatives. The objective of this evaluation was to provide the county and town with the qualitative and quantitative information required to make long-term planning decisions.
The analysis included an assessment of current and future system demands, safe yields of potential surface water withdrawal locations, review of the condition of current water treatment infrastructure, interbasin transfer considerations, development of water supply alternatives, and an assessment of alternative financial and economic impacts.
Hazen and Sawyer presented town and county officials, including town board members and county commissioners, with three capital project phasing options.
During a special-called meeting this month, they unanimously agreed upon the option they felt was the most cost-effective for consumers. Together they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Hazen and Sawyer supporting that option in order to apply for State Revolving Loan funds. In October both boards will be asked to formally move forward with the engineering and design.
“We’ve been talking about the water supply for many years and our water plant has aged and the Cooleemee plant is outdated. For this county to grow responsibly for the next 20, 30, 40 years we need a secure water supply and this plan does that,” said Mocksville Town Manager Matt Settlemyer.
“To be a viable player in economic development you have to have a secure water source and good transportation. Those are the infrastructure needs that every industry asks about. Davie County is well-positioned for transportation. Solving the water issue for the next 20 to 25 years enhances our economic competitiveness.”
The approved plan is to build a 3.5 mgd Cooleemee WTP and to expand the Sparks Road WTP to 4.5 mgd. Construction of a larger plant in Cooleemee will begin in 2021. The Old Cooleemee WTP and Lagle WTP will be decommissioned when the new plant goes online in 2023. The expansion of the Sparks Road plant would begin in 2028 and be completed in 2030. Under this plan, Mocksville will not produce water but will distribute water purchased from the county.
“From an engineering perspective, the preferred option of the town and the county will protect the community’s raw water supply for decades by eliminating reliance on Hunting Creek, enhancing system resiliency, and allowing for a cost-effective, phased expansion of improvements,” explained Chuck Willis, of Willis Engineers, who serves as the Town of Mocksville’s utility engineer.
“The time has come for regional utility systems,” said Terry Bralley, president of the Davie County Economic Development Commission. “ Much like replacing our old hospital with a new regional medical center has solved our medical needs for decades. The merging of systems will give greater efficiency while delivering a better product. The Mocksville Water Plant and the Cooleemee Water Plants are nearing their end of life and new technology will improve quality control while meeting today’s drinking water standards, which are ever-changing.”
“I appreciate the leadership that both of our boards have demonstrated in solving decade-plus issues with both systems. More efficient delivery of all public services should be continuously measured to more effectively serve the public.”
The capital cost of the project is $44 million which will be shared by the county and the town based on usage, amounting to roughly a 70/30 split. The county will be applying for State Revolving Loan funds, which are low-interest long-term loans, to finance these capital improvements.
“The town’s water plant has served well beyond its useful life and has been the topic of discussion for many years as far as needing a major overhaul,” said Mocksville Mayor Will Marklin. “For us to stay in compliance with state guidelines it would be necessary to spend a large sum of money to bring the Hugh Lagle facility up to date ($20-25 million) and even then the water supply coming from Hunting Creek is limited and will not meet capacity in coming years.
The Town of Mocksville working in conjunction with Davie County to come up with a solution to provide water to our residents for the next 40 years is the best and most economical solution to our water needs issue.
Combining assets from both entities to produce a modern, up to date facility will benefit all of our citizens who count on us to provide for their water needs. At the end of the day, all of us just want to turn on the faucet and have safe and clean drinking water. The solution before us provides this everyday necessity at the best price.”
Settlemyer explained that while there will be short-term increases in rates across the board, the long-term rates will flatten out and be below the state average. He added that “the town took a proactive approach with an increase this year to mitigate future increases.”
The average annual increase in water bills over the next ten years, which is based upon the number of users, is estimated to be 4.2% for the Town of Mocksville and 3.3% for Davie County.
“Long-range utility planning is critical for both quality of life and economic development,” said Terry Renegar, who serves as chairman of the county commissioners. “The County is very excited to be partnering with the Town of Mocksville to address the current and future needs. Execution of the shared vision should address our needs for the next fifty years in the most cost-effective manner.”