Board Discusses Sewer System Needs, Town Services at Mini Budget Retreat
The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners discussed projected sewer system needs and town services during a mini budgetary planning retreat this week.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board is conducting virtual retreats during its monthly work sessions. During Monday’s retreat, the mayor and commissioners received a presentation on the status of three utilities evaluations and discussed town services in relation to a strategic plan being developed to align the town’s resources with priorities.
The next budgetary planning retreat will be April 26, and a proposed budget package will be available later this spring for review. The budget public hearing and work session will be May 24, with a work session June 7 if needed. The board will consider adoption June 14. This past Monday’s meeting can be viewed on the town’s YouTube channel.
Kicking off the retreat, Utilities Director Marie Strandwitz provided information about the town’s water and wastewater systems and shared preliminary findings of three consultant evaluations related to water and sewer modeling and a sewage pumping station replacement.
The work to perform system upgrades through 2040 on the sewer system is estimated at $25 million. Strandwitz noted the costs include engineering and contingency funds and work is still underway. Some improvements could reduce other needs and costs.
Modeling and other work mentioned on the water system would provide redundancy to customers by connecting pipes to reduce affected outages during main breaks. The evaluation of the system also is helping the town understand the impacts of a failure at the Water Treatment Plant. The cost for additional modeling is estimated at $80,000. Other water system improvements in the upcoming budget cycle could be $400,000 or more.
The town manager said staff would return to the board in May with an initial proposal for how to approach the utility needs.
Town Manager Eric Peterson and Assistant to the Manager and Deputy Budget Director Jen Della Valle led discussion of town services, initiated in the development of a strategic plan. The three-year plan will narrow town focus, outlining key priorities and steps to accomplish goals.
The manager said it is important to be mindful of how much staff are doing. He said a six-page listing of services provided to the board likely could have been longer. The listing was part of a staff exercise to distinguish between core services and those that may be beyond traditional small-town offerings. Della Valle said the town’s strategic plan ultimately may contain fewer initiatives than the plans of larger organizations, but staff want to be confident they can deliver what is proposed.
Appreciation was expressed for the work accomplished by the town’s small staff of about 100. There was discussion about considering whether a requested task strays out of traditional municipal offerings. It was noted that labor divisions differ across the country and some community members may not know what services to expect from the various levels of government in North Carolina.
In other business at Monday’s work session, the board discussed the size and uses for a future train station building in preparation for seeking design services. Staff was directed to prepare a request for qualifications that includes designing a carbon-neutral, 7,000-square-foot building. The $7 million, state-funded project in central Hillsborough would include a community meeting space, one to three public offices and storage areas in addition to station amenities. The town has primary responsibility for delivery within seven years of the funding agreement, executed in February, as well as long-term ownership and maintenance of the building and site. Design is expected to begin in Fiscal Year 2022, which starts July 1, and take about two years.