On water, Gage and Bradley both right

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To the editor:

Commissioner Michael Gage made a very good point in the Bulletin’s August 14 article about the proposed water contract with Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD) when he pointed out that the current 100 percent negative response from citizens failed to match the “outcry over the UDO when citizens filled a school auditorium” to comment.

Of course Commissioner Gage might be forgetting that the UDO outcry came at an official public hearing called by the then-board of commissioners, with time, date and place announced in advance two times in area newspapers on two successive calendar weeks in accordance with North Carolina General Statute 160A-364. In other words, “Y’all come… and tell us what you think.”

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So far all comments on the water contract have come in regular BOC meetings since the BOC has thus far ignored requests for a public hearing. It would certainly be informative to have one. The four commissioners in favor of the contract could explain what they thought the benefits of the contract are regarding its 75-year term, how ICWD would retain rights to withdraw water for 75 years even if the contract terminated earlier (for their current customers or any wholesale buyers), and the fact that Polk would forfeit any future water revenues to ICWD as a trade-off for a one-time repair of the Turner Shoals Dam. (Sorry, Mr. Kachadoorian, in reference to your earlier very thorough letter to the editor, but ICWD has not currently agreed to any other dam repairs for the 75-year term, nor for any dredging responsibilities.)

And maybe there are other benefits to the proposed contract that the commissioners have not yet shared. A public hearing would be a great place for the public to hear them.

The public might also make valuable points at the public hearing, as now-Commissioner Shane Bradley did at the 2012 UDO public hearing. He was quoted in a Sept. 18, 2012, Bulletin article as saying at that hearing, “If counties can vote on issues such as liquor sales by referendum, why can’t Polk County bring the UDO to a vote?”

Since most of us depend far more on water than we do on liquor – or even development ordinances – wouldn’t his excellent point about letting the public vote via a referendum fit the proposed water contract as well?

There are now seven years remaining on the current universally admired contract between ICWD and Polk County, so there is ample time to enact both of these great suggestions: a public hearing and a referendum.

Thank you, gentlemen. The balls are back in your court!

Judy Heinrich