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By Joy Warren

The Town of White Lake Board of Commissioners met in regular session Tuesday evening. A public hearing was held to allow the public to comment on the proposed FY 2018-19 Budget. No citizens signed up to speak and the Board approved the Budget as presented.

Mayor Goldston Womble stated that the Town’s staff and elected officials worked diligently in analyzing and compiling the budget requests for the new fiscal year. He went on to say “The Town currently has a strong fund balance and is in good financial condition. The challenge we face with restoring the lake water will, at some point, have an impact on those funds.

“Unlike the past several years, this year we find it necessary to increase our ad valorem tax rate and utility fees to keep pace with the rising cost of providing the level of services you are accustomed to and the cost for restoring the lake water. In addition to our day-to-day operations, we are now faced with the short and long-term challenges of the ongoing lake restoration work.

“The Board has approved an increase in the ad valorem tax rate from $0.24 per $100 valuation to $0.28 per $100 valuation to support our services and the added cost of lake restoration project.”

Water/Wastewater rates have increased the monthly base rate for water ($9.67 to $11.60) and wastewater ($15.98 to $19.18). The solid waste/recycling rates remain the same for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget also includes a one-time across the board 1.8% salary raise for employees.

Womble updated the Board on the current status of the lake water matter. Womble shared a report given by Dr. Diane Lauritsen with LIMNOSCIENCES. Her report stated that testing that has been completed so far indicates that the alum treatment reduced the amount of algae in the water by 75%, which has greatly improved the color of the water. The effects of the treatment also included a significant reduction in the pH of the water (from 9.5 down to 6).

The Bald Head Conservancy science team has completed the installation of 21 wells around the perimeter of the Lake, and will be collecting data to help determine the relative amount of nutrients in the groundwater, whether that varies in different areas, and the direction and rate of flow of groundwater. Their work will continue through the summer and fall.

Womble indicated that he is hopeful that the Conservancy will have an initial report available at the July meeting.

Brochures have been mailed to businesses and citizens entitled Improving Our Lake Through Planning and Action. Information is available at www.WhiteLakeNC.org as well as the Town Hall for anyone who is interested in following the progress of the Lake Water Restoration Project.

The Town has spent $500,000 towards the project at this time. Womble indicated that the Town is pursuing State and Federal funding to assist in the expense of the treatment. He also said the Town is looking into establishing a non-profit corporation to allow for public contributions. Several local contributions have been received. The Town of Elizabethtown has contributed $10,000 and Bladen County $20,000. Representative William Brisson has indicated that $125,000 in Special Projects funding has been allocated by the NC Legislature in the upcoming State budget.

In administrative matters, the Board approved Utility Releases ($4,246.40) and Tax Releases ($568.06); released the delinquent utility accounts and 2007 uncollected ad valorem taxes as presented; approved a contract with WaterPIO to assist the Town on lake water issues; and approved Parker’s Paving for resurfacing Alford Dr., Town Hall St. and patching several streets. Several budget ordinances were approved to reallocate unexpended funds from various departments, and to budget unanticipated revenues (donations, reimbursements and refunds).

The White Lake Multi-Use Path final plans were sent to USDA on May 21. Once the plans are accepted, the Wooten Company will send out bids in time for the July Board meeting with construction to begin in August.

In the Open Forum time during the Board meeting, several citizens sent letters or spoke of their appreciation for the Town – their hard work, dedication, and passion toward getting the lake back to its former pristine condition.

The municipal complex will be closed Wednesday, July 4 in observance of Independence Day. A public works employee will be on call to respond to any water/sewer emergencies.