Rowland gets break on fine for sewer spill

By Terri Ferguson Smith -

ROWLAND — A $4,000 fine levied by the state’s environmental watchdog is being reduced because Rowland town officials have been working to fix sewer problems.

“Back in the spring during those heavy rains, we did have two sewer outflow overflows,” Town Clerk David Townsend told the Rowland Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Townsend told commissioners the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality had agreed to reduce the $4,000 fine to $130.13 if the town pays the smaller fine and makes immediate repairs, applies for a grant to fix the town’s sewer system, or find another way to pay for that work.

The immediate repairs are expected to cost about $2,000 and will be done with the town’s Public Works staff, Townsend said.

“The state’s being very cooperative,” Townsend said. “That’s why we’re going to work as fast as we can.”

After hearing a presentation from Jim Perry of the Lumber River Council of Governments, the commissioners voted unanimously to apply for a grant to study water and sewer infrastructure needs. If the town receives that grant, the results of the study will then be used to apply for grants that can be used for actual water and sewer infrastructure improvements.

Also on Tuesday, Julie Lucas spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting and voiced concerns that some bamboo trees were going to be cut on Bond Street because they attract too many birds.

Commissioner A. Jean Love said the town was looking into it because she knew of a person suffering from a bird-related sickness.

“There’s a big smell back there and people are getting sick in that area,” Love said.

Townsend said the birds are nesting in about a 300-by-300-square-foot area and that he reported the situation to the Robeson County Department of Health on Tuesday. He said he would advise the commissioners when he receives an answer on what can be done.

“If there is a hazard of illness, I’m for having it cleaned up,” Love said.

After the meeting, Love said the culprits are blackbirds and every year the flock grows larger.

In other matters:

— Police Chief John Reaves said judges are complaining that the bulbs in the fixtures at the courtroom are continuing to blow out. The board took no action, but Commissioner Paul Hunt Jr. said it was in the Police Department’s budget to get necessary work done.

— Townsend told commissioners that Staffing Alliance, an employment agency, wants to schedule a job fair for Rowland in October. The board gave verbal consent to allow the company to use the board’s meeting room at Town Hall.

— Lee Goodman of Earthland Community Development Corporation told the commissioners that the group is trying to schedule a meeting in Rowland with USDA Rural Development officials to could accommodate about 100 people. After his presentation, Mayor James Hampton told Goodman to work with Townsend on finding a venue.

By Terri Ferguson Smith

Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.

Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.

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