Only time will tell

Posted

The old days are long gone never to be lived again.

It’s a life lesson the older generation learns, especially those who grew up in Mount Olive.
Steve Wiggins recalls that time.

He used to bicycle downtown on Saturdays and ride by at least four department stores that sold bikes.

There were two theaters that showed movies of childhood heroes.

Wall-to-wall foot traffic on each side of the street brought out the town’s law enforcement to make sure everyone stayed safe.

Farmers came into town to sell the fruits of their labor and do business with the bank of their choice.

“I would love to see that again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Wiggins during a political candidate forum held May 9 barely a week before the municipal election occurred Tuesday.

The town’s commissioners and mayor, and their opponents, answered questions in front of a sparse crowd inside the American Legion building. They took time to convey their responses, but all seemed to send the same subliminal message — the history — and agriculture-rich town is in danger of dying.

Sewer issues.

Poverty.

Homelessness.

Lack of businesses.

All of those threads and many more form the town’s fabric have become threadbare and unraveled at the seams. Even silver threads and golden needles may not be enough to sew a community of dissatisfied residents back together, regardless if they live on either the north or south side of town.

Commissioners are stewards of the taxpayer’s money.

The responsibility is great, no doubt.

Mount Olive has been under a state-mandated moratorium since 2015 and for the second time overall in the past four decades. Commercial and residential growth is stunted, which has caused the town’s tax revenue base to become stagnant.

Research for our “This Week In History” feature has consistently revealed that town officials have battled the ongoing sewage filtering problem for at least five decades. Not only has the wastewater treatment plant become a problem, the town’s pipes — some nearly a century old — need to be replaced.

The current board has worked four years (two terms) to understand its job and to solve the problem that has enshrouded the wastewater treatment plant like a dark cloud.

No doubt, funding is needed since the town can’t pay the bill.

The board is seeking a $15 million grant to cover the work that needs to be done at the WWTP, which includes more than 100 acres of spray fields. If the grant is approved and the town receives the money, someone needs to properly oversee the project to make sure everything is done correctly.

If not, it becomes another waste of time and effort.

I expect state authorities would step in at that point and mandate a bond referendum, which the taxpayers would vote on. These commissioners and future commissioners don’t want this to happen.

The wastewater treatment plant and everything it affects is No. 1 on a list of priorities that Mount Olive needs to survive.

Will fixing the plant resolve poverty, homelessness, lack of businesses and bring new residents into the community?

Only time will tell.

Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. He can be reached at rcoggins@mountolivetribune.com.

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