Over the last two years, the biggest issue for the Town of Ronda has been ensuring water quality in the years to come. Nothing else comes close to being as important.
It was a huge step when, decades ago, the town went to a municipal water system, allowing Ronda’s citizens to forego the sometimes questionable quality of well water. It put residents on the same footing as its much bigger neighbors, Elkin, North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro. It wasn’t always a smooth transition for all of Ronda’s citizens, but it was for the best.
This mirrored transitions seen in other small municipalities across North Carolina.
Part of maintaining a water system is continuous monitoring and maintenance, and that isn’t necessarily cheap. Mayor Victor Varela and Ronda’s town board members try to keep costs down, and are largely successful in doing so.
Last year, the town instituted an increase in basic water rates-- applied to the first 2,000 gallons used-- about a dollar or so over two installments in January and July. Varela has pointed out several times that Ronda’s water system is barely breaking even as it is.
Water revenue accounts for more than 35% of Ronda’s budget, which makes it the big-ticket item.
The water used by residents inside the town limits is stored in a standpipe tank located on Cemetery Street since 1993. That water comes from Ronda’s well.
Water used by Ronda customers outside the town limits is purchased from Elkin and stored in a traditional elevated tank placed near East Wilkes Middle School in 2003.
These tanks are what are facing the small town with its biggest upcoming expense.
Both tanks, at the very least, need to be painted inside and out, using a special coating. The standpipe tank will need to be replaced, and it’s also likely a new well will have to be dug.
Another option is for Ronda to buy all of its water from Elkin. This may end up being the best option, in terms of cost and efficiency.
Ron Niland, Ronda’s town consultant, has laid out the various options a number of times during meetings. In truth, Ronda has no choice but to take action on this issue in order to maintain water quality and meet state-mandated standards.
An engineering study is in the works right now that will lay out Ronda’s options and detail likely costs. Grant money should be able to help offset the cost of the project.
The potentially large expenditure on the horizon for Ronda and the overall cost of maintaining a water system is definitely not unusual. Such situations are being experienced by small municipalities across the state.
I’ve been reading about some towns that are being forced to charge exorbitant rates in order to continue providing water. The worst of this had been experienced by towns that don’t have larger municipalities nearby from which to purchase water.
The biggest conundrum facing Ronda isn’t water quality. There have been some complaints about this from time-to-time, but these are few and tend to be from the same folks. The biggest issue is simply the expense of providing water in the coming years.
Some matters can be put on the back burner for towns for a period of time, or even for years. Water is an issue Ronda absolutely cannot avoid.