Burke County commissioners are expected to decide Tuesday whether to apply for a feasibility grant that would help them decide on the future of its water and sewer systems.

The county is looking to apply for two $50,000 Merger/Regionalization Feasibility grants from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, according to information in the commissioners’ agenda pack. The grants are available to local governments and nonprofit water corporations to determine the feasibility of consolidating the management of multiple utilities into a single utility or to provide regional treatment and the best way of carrying out the consolidation or regionalization, the information said.

The information said the county’s general services department wants to apply for the grant to study its water system and assess the feasibility of either merger or regionalization with another utility.

Most of the county’s water and sewer lines are in the eastern part of Burke County and it buys water from the city of Hickory, town of Valdese and city of Morganton, said Burke County Manager Bryan Steen.

The city of Hickory sent letters in August to Steen confirming its willingness and intent to participate with Burke in regionalization feasibility studies. The letter says the city and county have interconnections and common points of service and believes the study could benefit the populations they serve.

Steen said the county is looking into what’s best for the future of Burke County. With the potential for the county to grow, he said it’s a good time to look at whether officials need to make changes or improvements to the systems and be ready for the future.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners are expected to hold public hearings on two rezoning requests.

The first scheduled public hearing is for a split rezoning request from Walter Vinson to rezone a portion of 1.76 acres at 1752 U.S. 70, Connelly Springs. Vinson wants to rezone the front 0.58 acre of the property from Industrial to the Residential Two zoning district. Vinson also wants to rezone the remaining 1.18 acres to the General Business zoning district, according to information from the county.

The county says the reason for the split zoning is because the property has a home on the front portion of the property that is non-conforming due to the property being zoned Industrial. Vinson wants the rear portion of the property to create an overflow lot for his automobile sale business in Valdese and the Industrial District doesn’t permit auto sales businesses, according to the county.

A second public hearing will be held on a rezoning request from Bret Setzer to rezone 3.2 acres at 2594 U.S. 64, Morganton. Setzer wants to rezone the property from Residential One to General Business so he can sell and service new and used agricultural tractors, equipment and parts, according to information in the board’s agenda pack.

A third public hearing will be held to allow the county tax administrator to make a presentation of the 2019 Schedule of Value and Present Use Schedule of Value. The tax office is expected to conduct a revaluation of property in the county in 2019.

In other business, the board:

» Will decide on its consent agenda, which includes two change orders for a total $116,965.14 with Hickory Construction Co. for the new Mountain View Elementary School. One of the change orders was for sod at the sports field site perimeter, and the other change order is for fencing with two motorized vehicle swing gates at Bouchelle Street; A resolution opposing House Bill 320 that expands the amount of land from 100 acres to 800 acres that can qualify as a present use value conservation area for wildlife; Adoption of the Lake James to Morganton section of the Fonta Flora State Trail Master Plan; A one-year extension contract with Patton Cleaning Company for $27,102.34 per month, and the service evaluated this year and the contract bid out next year.

» Decide on a request from the Burke County Board of Elections for $9,400 to cover the cost of additional hours for poll workers. The early voting period for the General Election is 17 days, with operating hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

» Decide on appointments to the planning board.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at smcbrayer@morganton.com or at 828-432-8946.

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