County votes 3-2 to fund water line to Green Creek center

Published 1:28 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2010

After hearing strong opinions on both sides of the issue, Polk County commissioners agreed Monday to bear all costs for extending a water line to the Green Creek Community Center.
Commissioners heard several public comments and held a lengthy discussion before agreeing by split vote to spend $17,307 to extend service to the center.
Commissioner chair Cindy Walker, vice-chair Ray Gasperson and Rene McDermott voted for the extension and commissioners Tommy Melton and Warren Watson were opposed.
The board previously discussed the issue two weeks ago and tabled it until an attorney could review whether or not the county could pay all the costs given a waterline extension policy which generally requires a 60/40 percent match, with the county paying 60 percent of costs.
Interim county attorney Mike Egan referred commissioners on Monday to paragraph 12 in the policy, which allows the county to pay all the costs, particularly for a public service facility.
Watson disagreed that the paragraphs intent was for a purpose such as running a line to a non-profit. He said he remembers that clause being placed in the policy so the county could run main trunk lines throughout the county.
“Its basically a loophole in the policy that allows us to do whatever we want,” said Watson. “We need to consider the original intent.”
McDermott said she has a different recollection of the intent. She said she agrees with Watson 100 percent on the trunk lines, but the intent was much broader than just for main water lines.
“(The Green Creek Community Center) is a critical public service facility,” McDermott said. “It is a disaster center, meals on wheels, senior center and voting place. We wouldnt agree to not provide water to the Womack building.”
Many residents attended Mondays meeting specifically for the Green Creek water line. A sign-up sheet was available to either speak on the issue or simply sign for or against the county paying for the water line. There were 20 residents who signed the sheet in favor of the county running the line and two residents who signed against. Those against also spoke.
“All of this may be legal, but I dont know that its moral when you have residents whove sat here and cried because they dont have water,” Keith Holbert said.
Gary Curtis was also against and said he is 100 percent in favor of the county paying for the line, “if Polk County gives free connections to all non-profits.”
But the majority of residents disagreed that the Green Creek Community Center is like any other non-profit.
Residents in favor, such as James Metcalf, Margaret Johnson, David Page, Christa Haynes, Harry Denton, Chuck Davis and Pam Doty said the center serves the Polk County public and named the many services it offers, such as a senior and home delivered meals center, a Red Cross disaster center, a sub-station for the Polk County Sheriffs Office, site of the Green Creek Heritage Festival and recreational activities, among others.
Page brought a petition of residents in favor of the county paying for the line with 158 signatures.
The community center has a well system that has frequently broken down, at times jeopardizing the centers services. The center recently spent $5,000 to fix a problem, which Melton and Watson said was one of their concerns with paying for the line. They said if the center had requested service sooner, the $5,000 could have been used as part of the match.
Chair Walker in calling for a vote on the issue said even though she will never see any benefits of the county helping to pay for water service to places like Blackwood, Silver Creek and Claude Gilbert Roads, she is fine with helping to pay for that service.
“Thats why we made this policy,” Walker said, “to get water to our friends and neighbors.”
The board directed county manager Ryan Whitson to proceed with running a six-inch water line on Green Creek Drive to the center. No schedule of when service will be available has yet been made.

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