Water, sewer upgrades top York’s wish list

Money for water and sewer line upgrades, police and fire service enhancements and economic development investments are among those that top the city of York’s wish list.

Members of the York City Council and the public were asked to list their top community priorities last week during a public hearing to gather input in the ongoing search for community development grant money.

“We do this every couple of years,” said City Manager Charles Helms.

Helms said that during the council’s January meeting, council members will probably choose three or four projects that they believe should top the list of priorities. The priorities identified by city leaders will be used by staff members from the Catawba Regional Council of Governments in their search for grants to benefit the city, Helms said.

York Mayor Eddie Lee noted that the city has aging water lines in many areas, and other council members agreed. Lee said water main improvements are particularly needed in the Valley Road, Hickory Lane, Autumn Place, Charlotte Street, East and West Liberty street and North Congress Street areas.

“I think the water is of utmost importance,” said council member Mark Boley. “We have a serious issue in York with the quality of water, and one reason for it is that we have older water lines that need to be replaced.”

Lee also said other pressing needs include grants to enhance police and fire services. He said the city needs a second fire substation, and noted that it already owns the property for that station.

Other needs that Lee listed include improvements to the parking lot off Roosevelt Street, behind the downtown area; economic development grants to assist existing businesses and attract new ones; and property for recreational uses.

Council member Denise Lowry said the city needs tranportation to help low- to moderate-income residents, while council member Harmon Merritt said job training to help people find work.

Grazier Rhea, community development director with the regional council of governments, told council members the grants the agency would be seeking are for brick and mortar improvements, such as buildings and infrastructure improvements, not for services.

Rhea also said the grants in question can’t be used for recreational purposes.

But Helms said he believes grants to pay for infrastructure improvements will be available in the next few years. He said such grants are typically federal money that is available through the state.

“Infrastructure is what the federal government is going to be passing out,” he said.

One project the city had on its wish list in the 2009 survey is now in the process of being completed: streetscape improvements on West Liberty Street from Congress Street to White Rose Lane. The city received a grant of about $500,000 to complete that project.

Other needs on the 2009 list include the Roosevelt Street parking lot improvements; water and sewer improvements; infrastructure needs of new and existing businesses; enhancements to the city’s revitalization area; and housing needs of the elderly, disabled and low- and moderate-income residents.

By Jennifer Becknell, Staff Reporter with the Enquirer-Herald