With sewer system, Harmony optimistic on growth
Former Harmony mayor John Ray Campbell and current
mayor Joyce Rogers worked for years to establish a
sewer system in their community.
Home to about 500 souls, Harmony is a little town that found itself facing a huge problem: a system of old, unsanitary and inefficient septic tanks.
"People had sewage running out of the ground," said John Ray Campbell, who served as mayor of the Iredell County town for 24 years. "We have pictures of it running out on the curbs."
The problem was particularly troublesome after a hard rain. The septic systems, many of which were decades old, could no longer keep up with the demand placed on them. At the Harmony Cafeteria, the town's only sit-down restaurant, soap once percolated up from the ground behind the eatery, the result of a septic system that could not handle the dishwasher's output.
"Mud puddles are not supposed to have suds," said the cafeteria's owner, Judy Daniels.
Some commercial businesses were forced to pump out their septic systems twice a week. Other businesses found they could not expand. The Harmony Cafeteria turned to disposable drink glasses and paper plates to cut down on dishwasher use.
After the sewer system became
operational, Harmony Cafeteria
ditched its disposable plates
for traditional restaurant dinnerware.
So in 1997, Campbell began trying to assemble the finances to build a townwide septic system. It was drawn-out process. Beginning with a feasibility study made possible by the Rural Center, Campbell steered the nascent system through the funding process, which involved working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The Rural Center awarded a $1 million grant.
And on July 1, 2011, Harmony's $4 million sewer system officially came online, in no small part due to Campbell's perseverance. After he declined to run in that fall's election, longtime council woman Joyce Rogers became mayor.
The pair are rightfully proud of the town's sewer system and wastewater treatment plant. There are about 250 hook-ups into the system, Rogers said, which has helped primed the town for future development.
Investors, hopeful that the economy will soon improve, purchased empty lots that they believe will be attractive to developers. None of this, Rogers said, would have happened without the sewer system.
Daniels, the restaurant owner, agreed.
"We were at an absolute standstill," she said. "In the future, there's no way to go but up. It's just pluses all around."