Polk commissioners authorize engineering study for Sunny View water line

Published 11:23 am Friday, August 8, 2014

By Claire Sachse

The Polk County Board of Commissioners voted Aug. 4 in favor of Odom Engineering undertaking an engineering study for the installation of a water line to the Sunny View Fire Department and Sunny View Elementary School.  The proposed water line would run along Hwy. 9 from the Hwy. 108 crossroad in Mill Spring.

Commissioners Ted Owens, Michael Gage and Tom Pack voted to proceed with obtaining the engineering study. Commissioner Ray Gasperson voted against proceeding. Commissioner Keith Holbert was not present at the Aug. 4 regular meeting of the board.

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Commissioner Pack placed the item on the board’s agenda.

“We need to get schools out of the water business, and get them on public water,” he said, referring to Sunny View Elementary, which currently utilizes a well belonging to a residence adjacent to the school. Pack added, “The county needs to get the water line out of the way and then move on to other capital needs like the jail.”

Board Chairman Owens spoke in favor of moving forward with the engineering plans citing the state’s preference that schools be connected to public water systems.

Bill Miller, Polk County’s superintendent of education, said that Sunny View School’s well tank is “working at a capacity that is getting us by.” He added that it would be to the school’s advantage to get on public water, noting that Polk Central Elementary had that afternoon been connected to the water line on Hwy. 9.

“We would love to get out of the water business, and get away from testing wells. Once we get on public water a lot of situations are solved.”

During citizen comment time, Marty McGuinn of Sunny View Fire and Rescue spoke on behalf of the fire department in favor of extending the water line.

“We asked for this five years ago,” he said when the fire department approached the board of commissioners. “We can lower insurance rates if we can provide the water. The benefits to the fire department are astronomical and this benefits the citizens in the long run.”

McGuinn noted that a water line could potentially attract businesses along Hwy. 9. He also stated that Sunny View and Coopers Gap taxpayers had “paid taxes to put water in every community in this district without saying anything. It’s time for the rest of the county to put the water in our community.”

Commissioner Gasperson voted against authorizing the engineering study, asking instead to table the issue until after the November election when a new board of commissioners is seated. Gasperson said that a new board could discuss water plans for the entire county at their annual board retreat.

“First, we need to do a study or survey to see how many customers we could potentially have on the line,” said Gasperson. “Second, we need to go back and talk to the town of Lake Lure to see if they would have any interest in being interconnected, and any potential for cost sharing on a line…so they would be interconnected with the Broad River Water System.”

“We have heard that there were discussions [with Lake Lure] and they didn’t seem to go anywhere at the time,” said Gasperson. “But that’s been some time ago. Let’s talk to them again and have a comparable between the cost of this water line [from Hwy. 108] and what it would cost to run a water line from Lake Lure to the fire department and school.”

During citizen comment time, Renee McDermott spoke in favor of running a water line to the school and fire department, but stated that the commissioners waited until now to act in an attempt to gain votes before the election, and that commissioners were not looking at any alternative water sources.

“Around a year ago, this board discussed a proposal to run water from the Lake Lure municipal water system to the Sunny View Fire Department and Sunny View School.  It’s only a short distance from the southernmost point of the Lake Lure water system, around the Ingles store, to the fire department and school, and it would have been relatively inexpensive and efficient to provide water that way,” McDermott said.

“But that idea simply disappeared, without any word about costs, timing, or other important details,” she continued. “No reason was given for providing no follow-up. Now, just a short time before the election, Commissioner Pack is proposing building a water line all the way from Highway 108 up Highway 9 to the fire department and school, a distance of 5.9 miles.”