Rhodhiss left waiting for help

Not getting grant means draining reserves
May. 21, 2014 @ 06:49 AM

Town leaders in Rhodhiss learned last week that the town will not receive a Community Block Development Grant that would have paid for much-needed improvements to the water and sewer systems.

“It’s very disappointing, but we’re not giving up,” Town Manager Barbara Harmon said. “We’re going to reapply in September, so our hopes are still there.”

Not getting the grant means another delay in fixing leaks in the water and sewer systems that is draining the town's financial reserves. Effective July 1, Rhodhiss residents will see a 30 percent increase in their water and sewer rates, but town officials have said that a 60 percent increase would be needed to pull revenues even with the cost of running the water and sewer systems.

The town has been using its reserves to cover the gap, in violation of state rules. The state Local Government Commission could forcibly step in and raise the rates to balance the budget.

Harmon said that no increase beyond the previously approved 30 percent is expected. The town will pull $57,000 from reserves for the 2014-15 fiscal year and hope the state sees the town is trying to fix the problem.

“I don’t foresee (the commission stepping in) because we’re making every effort to improve our system to pay for itself, but we’ll just wait and see,” Harmon said.

Harmon said that Rhodhiss was ranked third out of 18 towns that applied for a grant, but only two towns were awarded grants, Robbinsville and Franklinton. Rhodhiss has a total of $1.5 million in needed repairs and upgrades to the water system and $1.6 million to the sewer system.

“We’ll just have to keep looking for grants, and we’ll keep doing what we can with what little money we have, which isn’t much,” Harmon said. “It’ll be something we’ll have to continue researching to figure out what we can do.”