County floating grant proposal for emergency generators

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The county is looking to the state to make sure county water continues to flow in the case of emergency.

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the state expects to see the largest FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program offered since 1999’s Hurricane Floyd and local governments in affected areas are being asked if they’re interested in applying for grants.

For Beaufort County, that means generators for the county’s water plants and pump stations.

“We do not have generator power at any of our water sites. We do not have it at any of our plants or any of our pump stations. Obviously we live in the coastal plains, we have flat, so elevation is not our friend when it comes to moving water around the county. So the only way that we can move water from place to place is with pumps, and pumps need electricity,” said Public Works Director Christina Smith in a recent meeting.

Smith said if power goes out in the county, water is limited to elevated storage tanks. Once that runs dry, without working pumps, county water customers would go without.

Such a scenario was a threat in the days after Hurricane Matthew: when the power went out during the Oct. 8, 2016 hurricane, the initial estimate as to when power would be up and running again was between five and seven days.

“I can tell you, a power outage that long, there would have been citizens in this county without water,” Smith said.

Before the storm, the county worked with FEMA and the state department of emergency management to get generators in place at the water sites, but Smith said it was not an easy process in either the logistics of moving large equipment or the number of inspections needed before they could be operational.

“Thankfully, we never had to use those because the power companies worked so hard,” Smith said. “The citizens of Beaufort County were blessed.”

Beaufort County commissioners gave Smith authorization to move forward with grant application — grants that would speed up the three-year plan to acquire and install water department generators that was laid out in the 2017 county budget.

“We want to make sure that Beaufort County is included in the pot when they start handing out those funds,” Smith said.

Smith also asked commissioners to approve a technical services agreement with McDavid and Associates to install generators and automatic transfer switches at the Southside Water Treatment plant, which was designated project in the first year of the three-year plan. The Farmville-based engineering company designed the water treatment plant, associated wells and booster pump stations, and has provided services to the Beaufort County Water Department for many years, according to Smith.

“I believe it’s in the county’s best interest to use one engineering firm to do both the initial installation, to do both the initial project which was approved in the fiscal year budget, and also to do the grant applications for the remainder of the sites,” Smith said.

As part of the agreement with the county, McDavid and Associates also would take on the task of submitting grant applications to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management division, for additional generators to power the county’s critical water system sites.

In separate 6-1 votes, commissioners approved the technical services agreement and authorized moving forward with the grant application. Commissioner Ed Booth had the lone dissenting votes.