Choices must be made about Ronda’s water system in the next few months.
That was the consensus of Ronda Mayor Victor Varela and the town board members, gathering Wednesday for their annual retreat. The board retreat was held at the Elkin campus of Surry Community College.
Ron Niland, the town’s consultant, said there are basically two options: Ronda can merge its water system with Elkin’s or it can pursue a grant or low-interest (or no-interest) loan to dig two new wells and make repairs to an above ground tank at East Wilkes Middle School.
A 2018 report by West Consultants estimated that it would cost just under $500,000 to make improvements to the town’s water tanks and drill two new wells, Niland said.
Grant or loan applications to the State Revolving Fund (SRF) would have to be submitted by August, Niland said. He said he believes the town could get at least some grant funding.
As it is, Ronda has been having to buy more water than usual from Elkin to supplement the lack of sufficient water from the existing well, resulting in money needing to be taken from the town’s general fund to cover the overage, it was noted.
The other option, merging the water system with Elkin’s, is “worth at least a look-see,” Niland said. Board members agreed that Niland and Varela could begin negotiations with Elkin officials to find out what impact the merger would have on Ronda’s water customers.
“At some point, small (water) systems become very difficult to operate,” Niland said. Larger systems are able to take advantage of “an economy of scale,” spreading system costs over thousands of customers, as opposed to just 300 or so, which is the case with Ronda.
“I think we’ve messed around for too long” and now need to act, Commissioner Kay Luffman said.
All commissioners attending agreed with Niland and Varela that discussions with Elkin should begin as soon as possible. Commissioner Manuel Wood was the only board member not at the retreat.
In other business, it was noted that Ronda has $130,000 in Powell Bill money, state funds which are to be used for street maintenance. The state says Ronda is keeping too much of the Powell funds on hand and need to spend it on improvements.
Commissioners agreed that part of the money should be spent on the badly-needed repaving of Cemetery Street. Niland noted that Carl Rose and Sons Inc. have submitted a $51,000 bid for the job. That would satisfy what the state wants spent, he said.
A budget amendment would have to be passed at the board’s April meeting for this work to proceed right away, he said.
Varela informed the board that the town could institute deed restrictions before auctioning off a five-acre parcel of land at the end of Gwyn Street. He proposed that the purchaser be restricted to using the land for single-family residence or apartments.
Residents on Gwyn Street have expressed opposition to the land being used for mobile homes or business development, the mayor said.
There are no zoning ordinances in Ronda, but the deed restriction would be binding on the buyer, Varela said.
The board voted at an earlier meeting to set the minimum bid in the upset bid process at $21,000. Varela said several people have expressed interest in buying the property.