Village Talking Water
A Cary-based water company has ex-pressed interest in playing a role in an agreement between Robbins and Pine-hurst if one should come to fruition.
Aqua North Carolina, which serves 85,000 customers across the state, including Clarendon Gardens in Pinehurst and Woodlake, approached the Pinehurst Village Council about "participating in a solution" for a potential deal between the two municipalities to reactivate Robbins' water plant to provide water to the village.
Aqua North Carolina is owned by Aqua America, the second-largest water company in the United States. Representatives from Aqua met with the Village Council during a special work session Thursday to have an "informal roundtable discussion" to hear the village's thoughts on the matter and talk about a possible partnership.
"I think that's kind of why we're here," said Jim Powers, a member of Aqua's corporate development team. "Is there a way to get a joint vision and partnership? You have an interest. We have an interest. How can we make those interests collide along with Robbins and any other stakeholders that are there? Quite frankly, we'd like to own and operate the system."
Tom Roberts, president and chief operating officer of Aqua North Carolina, said he thinks his organization could bring a lot to the table in this situation, including expertise, financing and customer service.
"We do a good job in what we do," he said.
Mayor George Lane and the council have made it clear that water is at the top of their agenda. Lane again reiterated that commitment Thursday, saying he wants to ensure that Pinehurst has an abundance of water for growth and in the event of a drought.
"We're looking for security in water for the next 50 to 100 years," he said.
The Robbins water treatment plant has been identified in a study done for the county as a viable solution to the area's water issues. Pinehurst and Robbins could potentially share ownership of the plant, but it's still too early to determine how the stakes would be divided.
Representatives from Pine-hurst and Robbins have been involved in informal discussions about the possibility. In late January, Lane and Robbins Mayor Theron Bell signed a letter of intent to continue those discussions.
But Lane reminded Aqua and members of the audience that these conversations are still very much in their infancy.
"There's interest," he said. "But there's a lot of things that have been conveyed that haven't happened yet."
Moore County owns the utility system serving the village.
Lane cited dissatisfaction with the current water situation with the county when asked by Aqua why the village would potentially want to own and operate the system.
Mounting frustration over county projects not being conducted in a timely manner has led to a push by Pinehurst to control its own destiny, he said.
"Maybe because we're dissatisfied with the fact that we pay 86 percent of the water bills, and we're not getting that back in value," he said.
Councilman Jeff Dawson echoed Lane's sentiments later in the meeting but said he was speaking only for himself.
"I think there is a significant disappointment with the lack of performance from the county in a number of areas with regard to events not happening in Pinehurst," he said. "There's also the reality of the fact that we pay for a big share of a lot of things in the county.
"As frustration continues to grow, I think that there is significant interest in now taking ownership stakes and taking away some of the issues that at one point in the past may have only been provided by the county and perhaps we get our hands on some of these and start doing them ourselves."
Dawson said there is no preconceived absolute fit for the village. While Robbins may not be the sole solution, he thinks it could be a piece of it and is happy to continue that conversation with multiple partners as long as Robbins is interested.
"We're not being pushy," Councilwoman Ginsey Fallon said. "This is Robbins' ball game. It's in their court."
Aqua has met with Bell and Robbins Interim Town Manager Tommy Combs briefly about the idea and has toured the facility. It has yet to meet with representatives of the county government, and it is unknown if and when such a meeting would take place.
The Moore County Board of Commissioners has invited Bell to its May 12 work session to talk about the subject in more detail.
Aqua has not determined any dollar amounts for how much a project like this would cost.
"It's hard to talk dollars when you're talking concepts," Roberts said.
The council could assemble a "working group" that included Aqua and Robbins to discuss the idea further.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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