Polk towns consider engineering report on water interconnect

Published 3:30 pm Friday, July 14, 2017

Saluda first to approve paying for third of $25,500 contract

SALUDA – The City of Saluda is the first to approve an engineering contract to determine the issues with the joint water interconnect that was supposed to allow the Towns of Columbus and Tryon and City of Saluda to exchange water in the event of an emergency.

Saluda City Council met Monday, July 10 and approved the agreement with Watermark Engineering, P.A. for a total of $25,500. The towns, if all agree, will split the costs by one third, or $8,500 each.

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Jonathan Hollifield, with Watermark, proposes to conduct a study that will determine the current issues with the system, the steps needed to repair the issues and the cost associated with the repairs.

The water line, pumps and tank were installed several years ago, with construction complete in 2008, but shortly after it was discovered the system did not work.

Saluda council had a lengthy discussion on the history of the project, which was paid for partly through a state grant and partly through financing that each of the three towns shared. The interconnect system did not work with the first issue noticed being that when Saluda tried to send water to Tryon, Saluda water customers had low to no water pressure. The towns sued the engineer who designed the system, Joel Wood, and settled to receive approximately $300,000.

Saluda City Manager Jonathan Cannon said the three towns asked Hollifield to tell the city what is wrong with the system and what direction is needed for repairs. The contract with Hollifield will be a report of issues and fixes and will not include the engineering of the repairs.

Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden said the lawsuit dealt with lost pressure in Saluda when the system was turned on. He said the state grant paid for approximately $1.5 million of the project and the towns spent approximately $1.5 million in financing the remainder of the project over the next 20 years.

“The good thing is it connects us all the way to Charlotte (with water),” Baisden said. “The bad thing is, it doesn’t work.”

The issue in Saluda with the system is when they turn it on to send water to Tryon, it makes customers in Saluda have no water.

Although not a part of the lawsuit, it was later discovered when Columbus turned theirs on to send water to Tryon, the same situation of no water occurred, Baisden said.

“It drew them dry,” Baisden said of Columbus.

Baisden said Saluda officials have spoken to state representatives, who suggested the towns go to the county and try to get all four entities together to ask for money to go towards the repairs.

Baisden also said Tryon is holding roughly $170,000 that belongs to Saluda because Tryon was the lead agency on the project.

Cannon said if Saluda got the money, he honestly wouldn’t know how to use it best.

Baisden said Saluda has been told repairs to Saluda’s system could cost $700,000-$1 million.

Cannon said the engineer in the lawsuit who served as an expert witness said repairs would be $1 million.

Commissioner Stanley Walker said if the engineer was only half right, that will be $500,000, “and we don’t have that.”

Walker later said he agrees to move forward with the potential of getting a grant for the repairs, but said Saluda can’t afford another loan.

Saluda approved the contract with Hollifield contingent on the other two towns approving it. Saluda also put a stipulation in the motion for penalties if the report is not complete in three months.

The Towns of Columbus and Tryon have not yet considered the contract. Columbus meets on Thursday, July 20. Tryon’s next meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 15.