Water could be topic of Oct. 1 joint meetingPublished 10:11pm Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Joining water and sewer systems locally could be a topic at a joint town meeting set for Oct. 1 if the Town of Tryon has any say in the agenda.
Tryon Town Council met Tuesday, Sept. 17 and heard from commissioner and mayor pro-tem Roy Miller who said Tryon should join a water authority, sell or lease its system.
Miller said the town entertained the idea of a water authority about five years ago during talks with Polk County and the Town of Columbus and City of Saluda, but the talks died.
“I think for our citizens’ benefit, we need to look into a water authority again or leasing or selling our system,” Miller said.
He added that the town continues to accrue debt saying Tryon is up to $3.7 million in debt.
“It’s really too much for a town of 2,000 people,” said Miller.
Commissioner George Baker said he thinks water should be a topic for the upcoming joint meeting, but said everyone agrees the town can’t do it on its own.
Baker also said that he read in a newspaper that one town sold its water system and two years later rates went up 200 percent.
Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples said a company could come in and keep rates low for a couple of years, then spend millions upgrading the system and go to the utilities commission, which approves rate increases for private operators, and say “look, we spent this much money, we need to increase rates.”
In 2010 NiAmerica, a private water and sewer system operator, offered Tryon $4,2 million for its system. The company approached the town again in 2012. No other offers have been made and Tryon did not continue discussions with NiAmerica after a presentation by the company in 2012.
Peoples suggested Tryon and Saluda get together since their water systems are now connected through a joint line along Howard Gap Road. Peoples said if two entities are on board it could help in joint discussions.
Peoples also said past discussions with Polk County, Columbus and Saluda regarding water made it evident that someone wants control. Peoples said a water/sewer authority works because an independent board of seven people would run the system taking politics out of the equation.
During citizen comments Bill Crowell said he agrees with Miller about the water system. He suggested Tryon put pressure on Columbus to send Tryon their “dirty water,” instead of spending millions upgrading their sewer plant.
Peoples said he’s talked to some in Columbus but they don’t have the vote to join sewer systems.
Baker reminded council that an election is coming up.
“There’s an election coming up guys,” Baker said, “anything can happen.”
The Oct. 1 joint meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. at Columbus Town Hall, will be the first the towns have met jointly since September 2011 when the towns then also met with Polk County. Polk will not be a part of the Oct. 1 meeting. During the 2011 meeting the county offered to pay to run a waterline, which has since been completed, to connect to Columbus. Prior to the September 2011 meeting, the county and towns met jointly in February 2011 to hear from elected officials from Jackson County who decided to form the joint Tuckasegee water and sewer authority.
Polk County and the towns started holding joint meetings in 2010 to discuss shared topics, including sharing water sources, but have only met a few times after Columbus officials indicated they were not interested at the time in joining a water authority.
Columbus, Saluda and Tryon also met briefly in March 2012 to approve the inter-local agreement for the new waterline that connects all three towns.
The towns and county originally began meeting jointly in 2002 to discuss sharing water sources and creating a joint water authority but those discussions also failed to join the local resources.
At that time the county did not have any water sources, but since has began building a water system with an agreement through the Broad River Water Authority and Inman Campobello Water District and has purchased the bed of Lake Adger in order to provide water to the county in the future.