Polk sets 6 a.m. meeting to see new ICWD contract

Published 10:00 pm Monday, April 27, 2015

Polk County Commissioners will get their first look at a revised draft contract with the Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD) to share water resources.

Polk County has been waiting since January to see what a new proposed contract with ICWD will include. Commissioners reviewed their calendars and could only decide on a time of 6 a.m. to review it for the first time.

Commissioners met April 20 and scheduled a work session for Thursday, May 21 at 6 a.m.

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Commissioner chair Tom Pack said he received an email from ICWD General Manager Jeff Walker in reference to ICWD being ready to propose the contract. Pack said he would like for the county to hold three work sessions regarding the contract, with the first being with commissioners going over the agreement, the next to have public comments and the last to incorporate public comments into the contract draft. Pack suggested the work sessions be two to three weeks apart.

Some commissioners had conflicts with mornings and others had conflicts with evenings. Commissioners are already having two additional meetings in May for budget work sessions on May 18 and May 19.

Pack said if the current draft contract is like the last one, he expects it will take commissioners two-three hours to review the contract on May 21.

Polk County and ICWD first announced a proposed partnership in September 2014 when Walker came to commissioners and made an offer for ICWD to run Polk’s water system and pay for up to $100,000 worth of new water lines per year in the county, pay for Turner Shoals Dam repairs at Lake Adger and pay for a water plant.

A contract was later proposed and residents began expressing concern with several points of the contract, including points of eminent domain, ICWD having water rights to Lake Adger for 50 years even if the contract was dissolved and Polk County being required to pay ICWD back for its infrastructure costs (with depreciation) in Polk County if the contract were ever dissolved. Commissioners and ICWD officials continued to work on the contract and made revisions until the end of 2014.

On Jan. 8 earlier this year, commissioners, ICWD and Polk staff attended a meeting in Raleigh with the N.C. Local Government Commission (LGC) after hearing that the state may not of approve of the contract as written. During the meeting in Raleigh, the LGC made it clear that the proposed contract would not meet state standards because of the potential burden on Polk taxpayers if the county ever chose to get out of the contract. There was no way to put an exact figure on what Polk County could owe ICWD and the state suggested a contract that excluded monetary paybacks.

The Raleigh meeting also reviewed the history of the county’s water system, which at the time included approximately 140 customers. Polk County got into the water business when Broad River Water Authority and ICWD requested to run a main trunk water line through Polk County in the Green Creek Township. In exchange, Polk owns the line and is able to extend water lines throughout the county and purchase water from Broad River with ICWD administering the system, including repairs to the system and billing. Polk has been extending water lines throughout the county and with the latest extension will have all its schools and fire departments connected to public water.

The county also purchased Lake Adger several years ago with plans to one day construct a water plant to service the county with its reservoir. Once Polk and ICWD began negotiations, however, the county’s need to construct a water plant disappeared. ICWD at first said it would pay to construct a water plant in Polk County then decided it would not need to house a water plant in Polk to service the county’s water needs.

Earlier this year commissioners announced the county has spent approximately $7.6 million on its water system, including the purchase of Lake Adger, water line extensions and studies and work on the Turner Shoals Dam.

Commissioners said once they receive the updated contract proposal from ICWD it will be posted it at www.polknc.org.