County ready to talk to towns again about cooperating on water

Published 5:03 pm Friday, May 7, 2010

The main topic for upcoming joint county and town meetings could once again be on the subject of water.

A discussion on running a main water line to the Polk County Middle School and Polk Central School quickly turned on Monday to talking to the towns about one day sharing water systems.

County commissioners asked county engineer Dave Odom the costs of running lines to the schools in order to get them off well water.

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Odom said if the county is going to connect the schools water, officials need to consider a larger project that would mean a larger storage tank to add more customers, which would be between a $2 million and $3 million project, due to the needed storage tank and booster pump.

Discussions then turned to what exactly would be the most beneficial backbone water line through the county from its main line in Green Creek.

Polk County partnered with the Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD) last year to run a waterline through Polk County connecting the S.C. system to Broad River Water Authority. Polk County owns the water line and can purchase water from ICWD as well as run waterline extensions to Polk customers. Some commissioners have shown interest in running the main line up Hwy. 9 and to Mill Spring and some commissioners Monday said more customers could be picked up running the main line up Peniel Road.

Going up Peniel Road is better because there are more homes, commissioner Tommy Melton said. Going up number 9 doesnt get us any closer to the towns.

Odom responded to Melton that there are more elevation issues up Peniel Road and a booster pump would be needed.

Melton and other commissioners said they will know which route is best depending on feedback from the towns. A joint meeting to discuss shared issues is scheduled for June 8 between the county, Columbus, Tryon and Saluda and will be hosted by Columbus. A definite time or location has not yet been set. It has been decided that the full town council and county board of commissioners will meet.

County chair Cindy Walker said the county needs to think about the backbone waterline and particularly where the present and future customers will be.

Going up the backbone (of the county) doesnt get the customers, Walker said. We need to think about getting those 1,000 customers to pay for the system.

Polk County is attempting to reclassify Lake Adger, which it now owns for a future water source. The county plans in the future to construct a water plant to draw out of Lake Adger and it has been said by engineers that in order to pay for the system the county will need 1,000 customers.

Commissioner Warren Watson said that with the economy, the county and the towns should be looking at consolidating shared services.

We dont need four systems in this county, Watson said.

He suggested for the short term, the county could provide a backup water source for the towns and for the long-term future, the county could be the main source for the whole county, so an alternate waterline route may make more sense, he said.

Odom also said at the end of the discussions that he sees some real opportunities for shared infrastructure between the county and the towns so all entities could save money.

Walker suggested that once commissioners get through the budget process, the county should get Odom to come up with maps as well as the county looking at grant opportunities for funding the main water line.

Well gain some insight once we sit down with the towns, said Melton.

Joint meetings between the county and its towns are not a new concept in Polk as just a few years ago joint meetings were held for about two years.

The subject then was also water with different elected officials on each board. For much of the time the county and towns were working on joining together for a long-term solution to water by forming a water authority. The meetings took place during the areas major drought a few years ago.

Those meetings ended with the county deciding to go on its own with a water source and the towns joining together to provide backup water to each other.

The county later approved purchasing Lake Adger and the towns are currently working on completing a joint water line between Tryon and Saluda to trade water sources between Tryon, Columbus and Saluda.

Saluda purchases its water from Hendersonville, Columbus provides water through wells and Tryon currently uses Lake Lanier as its main source, but will soon be able to use both lake water and mountain water once a water plant rehab is completed, which is expected sometime later this summer.