Sewer project progresses

County officials are moving along with a sewer project that they say will benefit three Catawba County Schools and more than 20 residences.

The Bunker Hill/ Oxford Sewer Project will provide municipal sewer service to Bunker Hill High School, Oxford Elementary School and River Bend Middle School, in addition to about 20 homes in the area.

On Monday, county commissioners agreed to award the bid for construction to Neill Grading and Construction Company, of Hickory.

The total project will cost about $1.9 million, with construction costing about $1.5 million.

The county received a $1.6 million grant from the N.C. Division of Environmental and Natural Resources earlier this year to finance the project. The county will also finance $304,201.08 from its Water and Sewer Fund to pay for the sewer project, according to county documents.

Officials say the project will address the aging sewage disposal systems at these schools, which have increasing operating and maintenance costs. School officials, too, have received and relayed complaints of odor issues from the old systems at times.

Bunker Hill High and Oxford Elementary are expected to connect to the new sewer system immediately to address the concerns, according to county information.

River Bend Middle School, built in 1998, has an adequate on-site sewage disposal system, but the system is large and takes up property that the county says could be better utilized if and when the school connects to municipal services.

Other business
Commissioners received a report on the county’s independent audit and comprehensive annual finance report for Fiscal Year 2010-11.

Marcie Spivey, audit director with Martin Starnes & Associates CPAs P.A., told commissioners that “the county improved its financial position” as a result of its conservative approach to budgeting and spending, and proactive responses to a fragile economy.

She said the county received a “clean” audit opinion, and that the firm was pleased with the county’s internal control structure and financial accountability throughout the year.

“There were no questioned costs as a result of the audit of the county’s federal and state programs," she said. "The Catawba County Board of Commissioners, management and staff should be commended for their proactive response to the adverse economic conditions it faced this past year."

Rodney Miller, Catawba County’s finance director, discussed several aspects of the county’s financial report in his report to the board.

“Local revenues began to recover modestly as sales tax revenues increased by 2.5 percent and property tax revenues saw a 0.62 percent increase from the year before,” Miller said. “However, building permit revenues declined by almost 50 percent and continue to be a significant concern to the local economy."