Tryon joins Columbus for water interconnect engineer 

Published 10:13 pm Monday, May 27, 2019

Tryon Town Council approves Withers-Ravenel to assess damage 


TRYON—The Town of Tryon has agreed to hire Withers-Ravenel as the engineers to assess damage and problems with the joint water line that connects Columbus, Saluda and Tryon.  

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Council met Tuesday and unanimously approved hiring the firm.  

Columbus approved the same firm last week.  

Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said the towns put out requests for qualifications and received two bids. He said he has met with the other two managers, with all recommending Withers-Ravenel and were tasked with going to each board to move forward.  

“And all expenditures come from expenditures from the suit?” asked Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples.  

Ollis said that all the funding for the engineer will come from money the towns won from the lawsuit.  

“(The water line) never worked,” said Tryon Commissioner Bill Crowell. “Why is it going to work now?”  

Ollis said if the engineers come back and say that it will be a $20,000 fix, the towns will likely move forward. But, if they come back and say it will cost $2-3 million, the towns may pass.  

The water line is located along Howard Gap Road between Tryon and Saluda and was installed several years ago to allow the three towns to exchange water in emergency situations. The towns already know there are issues with the water line and system and settled a lawsuit with the engineer who designed the system. The towns sued engineer Joel Wood, who designed the system, and were awarded $300,000, but that total did not include attorney fees, which took almost half of the settlement.  

Columbus has said from the start it will not spend any more money on the system after the lawsuit settlement is spent. The towns could seek grants to actually fix the system, but all three enacted water user fees years ago to pay back an approximate $1.5 million loan to construct the system. The towns received a state grant to pay for another $1.5 million. The towns are expected to pay back the loan over 20 years, beginning with the completed construction of the line in 2008.  

Because the water line is located along Howard Gap Road, there are also other potential issues since heavy rains damaged the road last May and recently. A portion of Howard Gap Road has been closed since January as it is crumbling. The water line runs along that section of the road that is closed.   

Cannon said earlier this year the engineering firm the towns need to analyze the system and make recommendations have to have experience with interconnections, experience with landslides and flooding. Once all the towns approve the engineering firm, the firm will assess the damage, tell the towns what needs to be repaired to the system and give cost estimates to repair the damage.