There are currently two wastewater projects underway in Alexander County – the Stony Point Elementary School sewer project and the Bethlehem sewer project. At their August 3rd meeting, the Alexander County Board of Commissioners heard updates on both projects.
Benjie Thomas, project engineer with West Consultants, reported on the sewer project which will serve Stony Point Elementary School. The $640,569 project is being funded by a CDBG-I (Community Development Block Grant for Infrastructure) grant from the State Water Infrastructure Authority and Alexander County Government.
Thomas said the contractor, Lock-Lane Construction of Stony Point, has made a lot of progress since the project began in May. The deadline for completion is November 7, but Thomas believes it will be completed by the end of September. The project will install approximately 3,500 linear feet of sewer line, construct a new pump station, and replace two aging septic systems at the school.
Dan Shabeldeen, owner of Shabeldeen Engineering, then gave a report on the Bethlehem sewer project. He said the project is proceeding well, especially considering the complexity of the project. The contractor, Two Brothers Utilities of Shelby, have two crews working on the project.
One crew is working in the area of Wittenburg Access Area, Wildlife Access Road, and Shiloh Church Road, approaching NC Hwy. 127. Shabeldeen said this is the most difficult part of the project, in terms of trench depth and the upcoming 130-foot bore under Hwy. 127 (currently scheduled for August 10).
Shabeldeen said the other crew is working on Heritage Farm Road for the next couple of weeks, then continuing on Rink Dam Road and Hwy. 127.
He believes the project is on schedule for completion by April 10, 2021; however, the project is only 22 percent complete at this time. “We’ll pick up the pace once we get through these most difficult parts,” Shabeldeen said.
The project includes 23,415 linear feet of sewer lines and the upgrade of the Heritage Village and Wittenburg Springs pump stations. The project, which totals more than $5 million, is being funded through a State Bond Loan from the North Carolina Clean Water Revolving Loan and Grant program.
In other business:
• Billie Walker, Alexander County Assistant Health Director, presented an update on COVID-19 in Alexander County. She said the county has a cumulative total of 272 confirmed cases, with 26 people in quarantine and three people in the hospital. There have been two deaths associated with COVID-19. Of the 272 total cases, 241 people have recovered. She said the state remains in phase 2 until August 7, and the Governor is expected to make an announcement about the state’s reopening around the middle of this week.
Walker encourages the public to practice the 3 W’s: wear a face covering, wait six feet apart, and wash your hands.
“We need to get into a habit of changing our daily lifestyles so that we’re more careful,” she said. “I think we’ve done a wonderful job in our county in keeping our nursing homes safe from this because that’s the most at-risk population.”
Walker provided some demographic data, noting that females account for 55 percent of the cases in Alexander County with 42 percent male and 3 percent unknown (didn’t answer the question). Local COVID-19 cases by age group are as follows: ages 0-18 – 14.7 percent, ages 19-25 – 14.3 percent, ages 26-34 – 15 percent, ages 35-54 – 29.7 percent, ages 55-65 – 14.3 percent, ages 65+ – 10.6 percent, and unknown age (didn’t answer the question) – 1.5 percent. Local COVID-19 cases by race are as follows: White – 49 percent, unknown (didn’t answer the question) – 31 percent, Hispanic – 17 percent, Black – 2 percent, and Asian – 1 percent.
Doug Gillispie, Director of Public Services, said that Alexander County EMS has experienced a 20 percent increase in call volume for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 medical needs. Gillispie said his office has fielded complaints about some businesses not complying with the mask mandate and the 50 percent capacity rule, and his staff has worked closely with the health department and sheriff’s office to respond to those calls.
County Manager Rick French said the state has released an additional 4 percent of CARES Act money to counties. (According to information from the Governor’s Office, this second round of CARES Act funds for Alexander is $727,740. Funds from the first round were $ 860,088.5. Together, this totals $1,587,828 of which at least 25 percent, or $396,957, must be offered to the Town of Taylorsville municipal government. The funds may be used for: medical needs including the COVID-19 related expenses of public hospitals and clinics, including testing; public health needs; payroll expenses for public safety or health-care employees dedicated to responding to the COVID-19; and expenses to protect public health, including teleworking, distance learning, food delivery, paid leave for public employees, expenses for maintaining prisons, and protecting the homeless population.)
French also noted that staff met last week regarding fall recreation sports. After much discussion, staff decided to follow state guidance to allow sports that have the least physical contact. Registration is currently underway at the Alexander County Parks and Recreation Department for t-ball, baseball, and softball. Sign-ups continue through August 24, with games set to begin the week of September 14.
• Commissioners presented a “Key to the County” to Karl Lenz for his 21 years of dedicated service with the Alexander County Board of Elections. Since his appointment on July 20, 1999, he has served through 37 elections.
Larry Yoder, Vice Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners, said, “You’ve always been an outstanding servant to Alexander County and the state of North Carolina, and to the people who came out to vote. You’ve always served with integrity and honor.”
Patrick Wike, Director of the Alexander County Board of Elections, read a letter from the North Carolina Board of Elections Executive Director, Karen Brinson Bell, who wrote to express appreciation to Lenz for his service.
Wike said that Lenz ranks third out of 500 board of elections members across the state in terms of years of service.
“I’m very proud of this accolade. I can’t begin to tell you what an asset that Karl has been to our county,” Wike said. “That level of experience and wisdom has really served the voters of this county.”
• Commissioners appointed Judy Caywood to serve three years on the Alexander County ABC Board. Commissioner Larry Yoder was appointed to the Future Forward Economic Alliance Board to help with the dissolution of the board.
• County Manager Rick French presented five budget amendments, mostly related to COVID-19 funds. One budget amendment was tabled until the September 14th meeting.
• County Manager French also noted that staff is working on refinancing the loan for the Alexander County Law Enforcement Center, which will save approximately $95,000. The resolution to refinance the loan will be presented at the September 14th meeting.
• Commissioners reported on their participation in recent ribbon cuttings at Mimi G’s Boutique, Kanupp Kennels, and the Bethlehem ABC Store.
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners typically meets on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in room #103 at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education; however, the next meeting is set for Monday, September 14 at 6:00 p.m. due to the Labor Day holiday. Regular meetings are recorded, and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at www.alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.