CHAPEL HILL -- The Orange Water and Sewer Authority will consider a $34-million budget Thursday night that reflects a 9.75-percent rate increase but won't have enough money to eliminate odor at the Mason Farm wastewater treatment plant.
In their ongoing battle with OWASA over odor in their neighborhood, Highland Woods residents spoke to the Chapel Hill Town Council Monday asking them to demand the utility complete the final phase of its odor elimination project by a certain date.
That date will have to be somewhere between 2011 and 2014, when OWASA's development permit requires that all construction at the Mason Farm plant be complete. OWASA is aiming to finish the project sometime in fiscal year 2010-2011, but its board refuses to promise that, citing the uncertainty of the global economy.
OWASA has already spent about $7 million over the last few years addressing odor problems on Mason Farm, mostly by enclosing various areas of the plant. The middle phase of the project is funded with an additional $1.5 million and scheduled for completion this September.
"We have ... less odor, less often," said Gordon Merklein, OWASA board vice chairman. "We hope it moves us to an even-less-odor-even-less-often stage."
That's not good enough for Town Council member Jim Ward, curator at the N.C. Botanical Garden not far from Mason Farm. Ward has clashed with OWASA board members such as Braxton Foushee, who does not support Phase III because he doesn't think citizens can afford rate hikes.
"It's never going to get done, in my opinion," said Ward. "We need to somehow come up with a date certain. Otherwise we're going to go through this dance next year and the following year and the year after that."
Merklein, though, said the board as a whole is committed to completing the project within the next few years.
The OWASA board will consider its 2009-2010 budget at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the community room at OWASA headquarters at 400 Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro.