Water county’s most critical issue, says Polk commissioner candidates

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moderator Rev. Ralph Kuether asked candidates what they consider the most pressing problem in the first 90 days of their terms.

Owens said that residents&squo; wells are going dry and the county must figure out how to get water to those in need. Democratic candidates say the first thing commissioners need to do is establish a strategic water plan, in order to prioritize where and how to get water to residents. Owens and Pack, current commissioners, say they have a plan and are following that plan.

McDermott said the county certainly needs to work on getting water to those whose wells are going dry and who have poor quality water. Other critical issues to McDermott were the protection of Polk&squo;s rural nature and working on the comprehensive plan.

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Pack said the county needs to continue with its water plan, which commissioners have begun phase I by purchasing water from an outside source. Other critical issues, he said, would be development and erosion control.

Gasperson agreed on water and completing the county&squo;s comprehensive plan. He said he constantly hears about issues concerning low water and those faced with high water bills. The county needs in the first 90 days to have proper engineering plans.

&dquo;But water, water, water is really primary right now,&dquo; said Gasperson.

Moore said he agreed water is the county&squo;s most critical issue and said the county needs to work together to get its towns on board with the water plan.

Walker said a lot of critical issues are already being worked on, such as water and a comprehensive plan. She said she&squo;d like to see a water plan to have longer range plans on water. Other issues for her included dealing with old county infrastructure.

Another question last week was hypothetical, Kuether said, but what if one day Polk was asked to provide water to Tryon Estates.

All candidates said that would be possible and they would be in favor of providing water to Tryon Estates, which is currently served by the Town of Columbus. Pack said there are many who are currently paying too much for water and he&squo;s willing to look at the option of the county supplying water. Pack also said having the county supplying water elsewhere will mean competition and could lower rates in the towns.

Walker said the county could hook up to the municipalities and could definitely work that out with the county&squo;s Lake Adger system. Gasperson also stressed the importance of working with the towns and said having the county system and three town systems won&squo;t make a lot of sense in the future. He said he wants to have a meeting of the minds between the county and towns concerning water.

Moore also said he&squo;d be in favor of running a line to Tryon Estates if they want to buy water in the future.

Owens said the county will &dquo;have the means and we could do that.&dquo;

McDermott discussed the benefit of competition and also said she thinks commissioners should pledge not to sell water from Lake Adger to South Carolina.

Other questions last week included how candidates would continue to maintain good quality emergency services and St. Luke&squo;s Hospital, if candidates would support revenue neutral tax rate following the 2009 property revaluation, their support of the land transfer tax, controlling growth, long lines for drivers licenses and the possibility of county-wide law enforcement.

On the tax revaluation, all candidates said they support going revenue neutral, which would mean commissioners will drop the tax rate to equalize the average rise in property values so the county will receive the same amount of revenue off property taxes as it did the previous year.