A seeming oversight by Haw River’s state house representative has led the town’s council members to speculate that they aren’t being well-represented, or even recognized, by the state legislature.
While several municipalities across the state received funds that were in excess after the passage of this year’s state budget, the first to be signed by Governor Roy Cooper in three years, Haw River’s council members lamented during their latest meeting that they hadn’t been informed, in the manner that other municipalities apparently were, that there was a quickly-dwindling pool of funds accessible to them.
That lack of communication with their state house representative, Mebane resident and Democrat Ricky Hurtado, led the town to miss out on funds that could have allowed for the construction of a new pump station along Lang Street, mayor Kelly Allen told the newspaper in an interview last week.
Replacing the current 41-year-old pump station, which is located in a flood plain, has stayed on the council’s to-do list for years due to its relatively steep $2.5 million price tag.
Additionally, the mayor explained, the low capacity for water and sewer infrastructure has caused the town to lose three potential residential developments.
Haw River was instead given $50,000, the amount that town manager Sean Tencer said was seemingly the baseline for all of the state’s municipalities. Within Alamance County, however, the city of Burlington got $15.8 million, the town of Elon got $2.4 million, and the Village of Alamance received $315,000.
“It was really discouraging,” the mayor said, adding that none on the council have been able to reach Hurtado since the council learned of the oversight just before Thanksgiving.
Compounding the frustration of poor communication, she said, is the fact that though Hurtado initially introduced himself to her at a community event months ago and suggested a meeting, he has neither visited the town hall nor gotten in touch with the mayor or council members since.
That reality contrasts with Allen’s recollections of Hurtado’s predecessor, Steve Ross, who lost a re-election bid to Hurtado in November 2020. During Ross’ tenure, she recalled, the representative reached out at least every other month and visited the town hall a few times a year.
Allen also explained that the council, upon learning about the distribution of the excess funds and being unable to reach the District 63 representative, reached out to other area representatives. Through those conversations, she said, Allen was told that those legislators would look for left-over funds once the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
Meanwhile, The Alamance News, which attempted to reach Hurtado by phone at his legislative office last week, was also unable to reach the representative for comment before an early press deadline on Tuesday.
Mayor pro tem: “I’m tired of Haw River being the low man on the totem pole”
During the council’s discussion of the incident during December’s meeting earlier this month, the mayor’s sentiments were reiterated by those on the council who expressed their own frustrations with the missed opportunity.
“I think we deserve an explanation as to why we were not informed. It is our district representative’s duty to let us know, and from everything I’ve heard, there was no effort to let us know that there was money available.
“I’m tired of Haw River being the low man on the totem pole. I’ve lived here close to 50 years, and we’re most of the time an afterthought.” – Haw River mayor pro tem Lee Lovette
“I think we deserve an explanation as to why we were not informed,” mayor pro tem Lee Lovette said. “It is our district representative’s duty to let us know, and from everything I’ve heard, there was no effort to let us know that there was money available.
“I’m tired of Haw River being the low man on the totem pole. I’ve lived here close to 50 years, and we’re most of the time an afterthought,” the longtime council member added, subsequently noting that while the state has “definitely done some things for us,” he still felt that the town wasn’t recognized when it came to distributing the funds.
“We were definitely overlooked this time,” council member Patty Johnson Wilson agreed.
For his part, another of the council’s longtime members, Steve Lineberry, said that the $50,000, while beneficial, didn’t seem like an equal distribution upon looking at the amount other municipalities received.
Directing his words toward the state legislature, he concluded, “Folks at the state, distribute it equally and don’t leave us little folks out all the time. I’m tired of it.”