The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday is scheduled to get updates on its priorities, including the establishment of a county water supply system.
Renee Paschal, the interim county manager, and various department heads managing the priorities will make the presentations at the board’s agenda session, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse. The session is slated for Room 564.
In a memo from Paschal to the board, she reminded commissioners that in November the idea of a “90-day priority session” in early January was discussed among the board chairman, vice chair and former County Manager Amy Cannon.
Among the priorities that commissioners will get updates on include:
According to Paschal, the priority session’s first goal is to give commissioners updates on major projects the she and her staff are actively managing and to offer realistic expectations for what can be accomplished in the next 90 days.
The second goal is for the board to confirm these priorities and provide guidance to the staff whether to work on other priorities between now and March 1.
Among the goals is the establishment of a county water supply system to address the contaminated private drinking water wells in the Gray’s Creek community and other areas affected by the seepage of contaminants from the Chemours plant off N.C. 87 near the Cumberland and Bladen county line.
Identifying a groundwater supply source has been the first phase of developing the proposed Cumberland County water system. Thereafter, groundwater resources will be developed to supply drinking water to residents with contaminated wells.
“Funding is being sought from all possible sources for the initial phases of source water development,” according to a draft of the presentation that has been provided to commissioners.
The next steps through March include:
Amanda Bader, the county’s Environmental Resources manager, is scheduled make the presentation on the proposed county water supply, as well as on another priority presentation: the future of the Cumberland County landfill on Ann Street. Bader has made several presentations to the commissioners stating that the landfill is expected to only last another eight years.
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Delores Taylor, Community Development director, is scheduled to update commissioners on the homeless strategic plan, to include the status of the proposed county homeless shelter. The county is waiting for geo testing and soil boring results, which will allow the county to choose a location.
Tye Vaught, county chief of staff, is expected to update commissioners on the spending of Cumberland County’s American Rescue Plan allocation of $65,168,690. The federal dollars can be used to cover eligible costs incurred between March 3, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2024. However the money must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.
Under the ARP program, the county also is looking to expand broadband into under served areas of Cumberland County. The project is a partnership with the state of North Carolina’s Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT grant).
Through a competitive “request for proposal” process, the county has chosen Brightspeed as its vendor and allocated $1,000,000 for the project. The county is also looking to expand broadband beyond the GREAT grant initiative.
Debra Shaw, the county’s budget and performance manager, is scheduled to again update the commissioners on how the county and its municipalities split local sales taxes; whether on an ad valorem or per captia basis. Since 2003, the county has been in an agreement with its towns and cities to split the sales tax on a per capita basis. However, the agreement expires on June 30.
The current per capita distribution mostly benefits municipalities. While the county’s sales tax shrinks, its state and federally mandated responsibilities remain the same. Counties may change the method in April; the new method goes into effect 14 months later.
County staff wants to prepare commissioners for a decision on how sales taxes are distributed in Cumberland County. If the board changes the current method, it must vote to do so in April and send a resolution to the state within 15 days of adopting the new distribution method. Another option for the board is keep the current per capita distribution method but renegotiate the split with the municipalities.
The county estimates its loss in fiscal year 2024 at about $9.6 million, based on per capita method without an agreement.
Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView. He can be reached at email@example.com.