Tryon mayor speaks on cooperative water initiatives at state conference

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mayor J. Alan Peoples of Tryon was a featured speaker on a panel discussion of &dquo;Regional Problems and Regional Solutions: Regional Cooperation through Interlocal Agreements and Other Forms of Partnering&dquo; at the Local Elected Leaders Academy&squo;s &dquo;WATERVISION: The Future of Water Resources in North Carolina&dquo; conference held on May 22, 2008 in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. &bsp;

This statewide conference was held to help local elected officials prepare for the water challenges facing them in the near future as North Carolina&squo;s population grows at an ever-increasing rate.&bsp; The goal of the conference was &dquo;to serve as a catalyst for focused inquiry and action leading to a more resilient water allocation system for North Carolina.&dquo;&bsp; The conference included exploration of new perspectives on local government water partnerships, regional collaboration opportunities and challenges, financial considerations of operating water/sewer/storm water systems, impact and legacy of wise decisions by elected officials on water issues, insight on relationships between resource sustainability and growth capacity, comparison of North Carolina&squo;s approaches to those of neighboring states in the Southeast, and identification of strategies to address competition issues between other local entities for water.&bsp; The Local Elected Leaders Academy is a partnership of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

In his presentation, Mayor Peoples described how the Town of Tryon had been exploring potential collaborative projects to assure adequate water supply for Tryon and its water service area since 2002.&bsp; Several promising joint projects with various regional entities were proposed to secure new water sources, but had to be abandoned when major obstacles in funding, statutory or regional feasibility emerged.&bsp; Peoples presented an overview of the current Tryon-Saluda-Columbus Crisis Water Project which will soon be constructing bidirectional interconnections between the water systems of the three municipalities so that any of the three partners would have access to water reserves controlled by the other participating municipalities in times of need.&bsp; He described project planning and the development of crucial agreements between the participating entities on management of the new system.&bsp; Mayor Peoples outlined the procedural steps whereby project funding of $3.5 million from multiple funding sources was secured.&bsp; Emergency funding for the drought-related project was provided by the North Carolina Rural Center and a grant application was submitted to the Appalachian Regional Commission on behalf of Tryon by Governor Easley&squo;s office. The Isothermal Planning and Development Commission (IPDC) assisted with the grants and is helping with an application to the State Revolving Loan Fund for drinking water. Mayor Peoples also discussed this project&squo;s current and potential future relationship to the Polk County Water District.

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IPDC Executive Director Jim Edwards coordinated the planning of the WaterVision panel on regional solutions which included Mayor Peoples&squo; presentation. Edwards stated, &dquo; I think the conference was a success. The mayor did a great job.&dquo; Edwards added that he &dquo;was especially pleased to hear so many mentions of the current and potential roles of the COGs (Councils of Governments).&dquo; Isothermal Planning & Development Commission is the COG which serves Polk, Rutherford, Cleveland and McDowell counties. The Land of Sky Regional Commission is the COG which serves neighboring Henderson, Buncombe, Madison and Transylvania counties.

In reviewing the outcomes of this conference, Mayor Peoples stated that the participants obtained a lot of valuable information and learned about many possible avenues to explore for solutions to local water supply issues. He summarized that the key to success in cooperative water initiatives is &dquo;collaboration, collaboration, collaboration and communication.&dquo;

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