County holds info meeting on county-wide water

Several members of the Vance County Board of Commissioners along with county staff and contractors participated in an informational meeting on county-wide water last night at 7:00 p.m. in the County Administration Building.

Commissioner Danny Wright introduced the meeting to approximately ten county residents who attended. He said that the purpose of the meeting was to give citizens as much information as they need to make an informed decision regarding the project on May 6.

Commissioners Deborah Brown, Dan Brummit, and Terry Garrison were also present.

Potentially affected residents will vote on a water bond issue on that day.

Wright added that commissioners must remain neutral on referendum items, but he also wanted to make the session as informative as possible.

An audio recording of the session may be heard here.

Wright told the audience that Tom Goodwin of Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates was present to answer questions as well.

County Manager Jerry Ayscue said that the session was designed to be “an exchange of information”. He reaffirmed that water was not being advocated, but rather information was being presented for people to make informed decisions.

Ayscue said that there would be a meeting every Tuesday evening beginning on April 1 in five elementary schools throughout the county.

The April 1 meeting will be at Aycock Elementary School.

The county manager also said that the Chamber of Commerce had given the county a few minutes on its television show which airs Thursday evenings on Time-Warner cable channel 7.

Before beginning his presentation, Goodwin said that the county had done an excellent jobs with the handouts (tri-fold pamphlet, information sheet, and FAQ sheet).

Goodwin told the audience that the water districts had not changed since the last major planning for the project. He said that the major difference was in construction costs which had escalated over the past three years.

The water districts will cover all of the county except for the Watkins district and Middleburg. Watkins will not be covered because the median income of the area (over $50,000 per year) does not meet the USDA guidelines for grants currently set at approximately $37,000 per household. Middleburg will not be covered because it already receives water service from Warren County.

The first phase of the project will cover the southern part of the county. The second phase will cover the northern part of the county.

The first phase will have 96 miles of water mains and two 250,000 gallon elevated tanks. These will supply pressure to the system and act as a day’s reserve if service is interrupted. There will also be several booster pumps with generators in case of power failure.

Goodwin said that the county wants 80% participation in the first phase, or 2,000 customers who would use at least 300 gallons per day.

Phase one will cost $15 million.

Phase two has 71 miles of water mains and one 300,000 gallon tank for 1,400 customers. It will cost $12 million.

Goodwin said that water must be purchased from the City of Henderson. Kerr Lake is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers which is under contract with the Kerr Lake Regional Water System in which Henderson owns 60% interest.

It will take nine months to design the system and get the necessary permits. Phase one could be finished within one and one-half years, with the entire project finished in three to five years, depending on funding.

Goodwin said that a tap would cost customers $125 before construction begins and $2,000 afterwards. He also said that water bills would be $35 -$40 per month, contingent on usage and the number of grants received for the project.

Without grants, the bill could be $55 to $60 per month.

An audience member expressed concern that tax money could potentially be used for the system if participants drop out. Wright responded that the system would be user-funded, and the use of tax money, while possible, was highly unlikely and a worst-case scenario.

Ayscue continued to tout the advantages of the system, noting that new laws regarding the sinking of wells were going into effect at the state level. He also noted that water would be available in times of drought.

Ayscue also said that the system could have the affect of lowering fire insurance ratings.