Wyoming County Commission members discussed water extension projects and broadband improvements with representatives of Thompson and Litton Engineering of Princeton.

Jeremiah Tuggle, Keli Ratcliffe and Matt Allen told commissioners they are currently working on a broadband report that will define where the needs are in planning and development council regions 1 and 4, which includes Wyoming County.

They will then determine what is eligible for funding, then rank those projects before beginning to chase dollars, Tuggle said.

They also hope to be involved with the Pineville water extension into Brenton and Mullensville as well as the extension into Rolling Hills, he told commissioners.

The planned extension from Pineville to Brenton is expected to serve 485 new customers at a cost of $4 million, according to officials.

Phase one of the project will include Brenton, Marianna and Green Camp and end at Baileysville Elementary and Middle School.

Before work can begin, however, Pineville needs to catch up on three years of audits in order to be eligible for Abandoned Mine Land funding.

The AML funding is critical to the project, officials maintain.

There are reportedly two abandoned mines in the project area, which should make the project eligible for the AML funding.

The process for the water project was started in March 2016.

The Brenton system is failing, with repair costs gobbling up the PSD finances.

A timeline as to when the project may move forward is difficult without adequate funding sources, officials note.

Commissioner Sam Muscari said the project needs to be accelerated due to the need in the area.

Jason Mullins, commission president, said the project needs to be treated as an emergency.

“Our goal is to get our county completely covered,” Mullins said of providing potable water.

Eventually, commissioners want to do the same with sewer projects across the county, Mullins noted.

In other business, Magistrate Craig Cook asked commissioners to consider moving Magistrate Court to another facility in Pineville or to provide improvements to the existing facilities in the courthouse annex.

Mullins asked Cook to provide plans that the magistrates believe will improve the facilities.

He said county crews could do the construction work.

Additionally, commissioners began looking over budget needs for the coming year.

Costs are up and income is down, but officials expect 2020 to be much the same as 2019.

There will be some cuts, but not in personnel or critical services, Assessor Mike Cook believes.

In a summary of assessed values of personal property, real property, and public utilities from 2019 to 2020, the county is down just over $21.5 million, Cook said.

That translates to $523,179 in taxes, he explained. The county commission’s share of that is $120,331 in tax revenue, he said.

Among the biggest drains on the county budget are the Southern Regional Jail bill and the costs for the “landfill” and compactor stations.

Over the last dozen years, the Southern Regional Jail bill has averaged about 17 percent of the county budget, Cook estimated.

In 2018-19, the cost for housing prisoners in Southern Regional Jail was $801,288, or 16 percent. In 2015-16, the cost went to its highest point at $1.3 million, or 23 percent.

Over the past 7.5 years, the county has spent an average of $622,652 providing compactor stations for residents and business owners to get rid of trash. However, the service has only generated an annual average of $363,912 in income. So the county has lost more than $250,000 each year to provide the service.

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