The lake you didn’t know you owned
Published 6:44 pm Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Letter to the Editor
I like to think that “governments” do not really own anything; the taxpayers who fund governments do. It is the taxpaying citizens who elect their leaders, who in-turn make decisions on how to best utilize tax dollars.
Whether you know it or not, if you are a tax paying citizen in Polk County, Lake Adger and Turner Shoals Dam are two of the largest assets that we own. I do not live on or near the lake. However, with both sides of my family having lived here and enjoyed Lake Adger and Green River for generations, I certainly feel that it is a resource worth taking care of. During my time on the county commission and now in this role, I have heard from countless citizens who agree, and implore we move forward with necessary repairs to these assets. I am optimistic that we are one step closer to that goal.
For context, since Polk County acquired the lake over 10 years ago (well before my time), it assumed the responsibility of maintaining the Turner Shoals Dam as well. As many of you know, the Department of Environmental Quality in Raleigh has required that Polk County make extensive repairs to Turner Shoals dam to the tune of $6 million. This is due to the age of the dam and the fact that it is categorized as “high-risk”.
Now if you turn on the evening news and hear about the trillions that congress is spending, it is easy to lose perspective of how much $6 million is to a small rural county like Polk. So, to adjust it to scale, our entire county budget is around $30 million. Meaning if we had to put up the entire cost or dam repair project at once, we would be looking at around 20% of our entire budget. That would leave us having to either severely deplete the county fund balance or take out a huge loan that we would be paying debt service on for years to come.
In either scenario, it is likely that taxes would have to be raised to make up that amount. I, along with the elected officials and administrators here in the county, do not want to see that happen; especially as we see many people and small businesses suffering. That is why I have sponsored HB 925 Fund High-Risk Dam Repairs, which would use one time state funding to fully complete the Turner Shoal Dam Repairs. This is money that without special allocation would almost certainly be going to another county across the state. I am asking for your support as we attempt to get this funded and eliminate a potentially huge financial liability that would otherwise have to be passed along to the small tax base here in the county.
I strive to be a good steward of your hard-earned tax dollars and keep taxes as low as possible. So, after much due diligence, I believe this is the most fiscally responsible way to meet our legal and contractual obligations to maintain the lake and dam. Lake Adger is an extremely important economic, recreational and environmental asset for our community that we need to protect and preserve. If you have letters of opposition or support, as well as any questions about this project, please feel free to send them directly to me at Jake.Johnson@ncleg.gov.
Thank you all for the opportunity to serve you in the legislature.
Representative Jake Johnson