Polk to revisit water extension policy

Published 5:46 pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

by Leah Justice

Polk County commissioners decided to amend its waterline extension policy saying the current policy is not set in stone and a couple sections leave the decision of whether or not to extend a line up to the board of commissioners.

Commissioners met Aug. 19 and heard from commissioner Ted Owens who reviewed waterline extensions the county has done and the costs involved to the county and the residents, businesses or organizations who received the waterline.

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One point of discussion that continues to surface during commissioner meetings is the county running a waterline to the Green Creek Community Center.

The county paid for the extension in full. Owens said the cost was $17,307 with commissioner chair Michael Gage asking if there was no participation fee.

Owens said his source told him the community center did not ask for a waterline, but that commissioner Ray Gasperson asked them if they wanted one.

Gasperson read from the April 26, 2010 minutes, where there was strong support from the community center’s board of directors to have public water.

Owens continued with what waterline extensions the county has completed, including some subdivisions that paid the full costs.

The most recent subdivision extension was Meadowbrook, off Hwy. 108 between Columbus and Mill Spring, that Owens called a unique extension. Owens said even though Meadowbrook was done on a private road, the county paid 60 percent of the costs.

“So the water policy is not set in stone,” Gage said.

Owens suggested the county look at the policy and ask its attorney to draft changes that make the policy more specific. Owens said particularly sections 12 and 13 of the policy leave it open for commissioners to decide.

Section 12 states, “Polk County reserves the right, subject to available funding, to extend waterlines to any part of the county or to use other water sources, and to pay the cost of so doing from its general fund, from loans or grants from the state of North Carolina or the United States or any other funds that may become available.”

And section 13 says, “Connection to existing Polk County waterlines or any extension thereof shall be subject to payment of then prevailing rates and charges for water service, including connection fees, impact fees and participation fees. Polk County shall have the right to establish such rates, fees and charges in its sole and absolute discretion.”

Owens also said for example, if Red Fox subdivision asked the county for water, it would cost the county “plenty of money.”

Commissioner Tom Pack said he wants the policy to specifically say whether the county will extend lines on private roads or just public roads.

Polk adopted a waterline extension policy on June 8, 2009 that says the county entered into an agreement on July 7, 2008 with the Broad River Water Authority and the Inman Campobello Water District (ICWD) for the construction of a waterline across Polk County to the ICWD. The agreement includes that Polk County will have available for distribution from the waterline crossing Polk County to its citizens up to 500,000 gallons of finished water per day the first year and 600,000 gallons per day of finished water after the second year.

According to the county’s extension policy, it was never meant to be permanent as the county at the time was in the process of adopting a comprehensive plan, which was going to include provisions for waterline extensions.

“Wheras, Polk County is in the process of adopting a comprehensive policy regarding waterline extensions as part of its new comprehensive plan, but in the meantime needs an interim waterline extension policy to address pending requests and additional requests expected to be submitted prior to completion and adoption of the comprehensive plan,” states the waterline extension policy; “and WHEREAS, the Polk County Board of Commissioners hereby adopts the following interim waterline extension policy.”

The policy includes that existing residents and businesses can petition the county for a waterline extension and if water and funding is available and the county determines that the project is in the best interest of the county, the county will proceed with obtaining estimates from a licensed engineer.

“The county will provide the cost estimate to the residents or businesses. If the residents or businesses decide they want to proceed, the residents or businesses will enter into a written agreement with the county wherein the residents or businesses will, as a group, agree to pay 40 percent of the actual cost of the line, its design and its construction,” states the policy. “The cost of the line shall include all costs, including, but not limited to, Polk County’s costs of obtaining the preliminary cost estimate and all engineering, design, legal, permitting, oversight and construction costs actually incurred by the county in designing, permitting and constructing the line and cost of obtaining rights-of-way and easements for the line.”

Tap fees to waterline extensions have also been a topic of discussion amongst commissioners particularly after the county decided to give a discount on tap fees for anyone in the county who can tap onto a county waterline until the end of the year.

The water policy says the tap fee shall be $1,200 for anyone who participates from the time of the original petition and $3,000 for anyone who wants to participate after construction. The discounted tap fee until the end of the year is $700.

“To encourage existing residents and businesses to participate in each waterline extension project from the time of the original petition, residents or businesses along the waterline extension who participate in the 40 percent cost share shall only be required to pay a tap fee of $1,200,” states the policy. “Residents or businesses who do not participate in the cost share, but who wish to connect to the line shall be required to pay a tap fee of $3,000 in addition to any other fees and charges. The county reserves the right to increase these tap fees.”

Commissioners decided to put changes to the water policy on its next agenda, which is scheduled for Sept. 9.