Words Flare on Water
Moore County is launching a public relations campaign on the water front.
In news releases, advertisements and interviews, county officials are citing the availability of more than enough water for all customers -- including Pinehurst -- and listing millions of dollars in utility improvements.
"We have more water than our customers have ever asked for or needed," County Manager Cary McSwain said in a telephone interview Friday morning.
McSwain said the county has excess capacity of at least 1.4 million gallons, more than required to cover village of Pinehurst water needs on a peak usage day. The county has a maximum capacity of 5.6 million gallons daily, and peak demand on any one day has never exceeded 4.2 million gallons.
His comment echoes information presented to the Board of Commissioners at a Monday night meeting by Public Works Director Dennis Brobst.
McSwain added that another half-million gallons is "waiting to be pumped" from two new wells drilled to serve the area near Pinehurst's celebrated No. 2 golf course. Completion of the project is dependent upon approval by village planning and zoning officials.
The two wells are to replace the old Well No. 9, which was shut down because of contamination. The new wells will enable the combining of groundwater from two separate sources, providing an additional source of water and cutting the percentage of unwanted elements to a minimum.
Well houses, or mini-treatment plants, are needed to handle this new water source, and the plan calls for these facilities to be erected in a wooded area beside the golf course in about the same area where the old well house was located. McSwain said the well houses are needed to provide chemicals needed to treat the well water.
"It blends in with the pine trees there," McSwain said.
County officials say they are baffled by delays on the part of the village.
McSwain reported that the design applications for the wells and well houses have already received approval from Don Padgett, president of Pinehurst Resort, and the resort's director of golf course and ground management.
He said that the county has twice applied to the village's Historical Commission for review of the well plant housing design, and the application has been turned down by village planning officials both times.
What is puzzling, he said, is the fact that the plant housing is in about the same location as the old one.
This information is contained in a half-page paid advertisement the county is running in today's edition of The Pilot.
The famed Pinehurst No. 2 course, which is in the village's historic district, hosted the U.S. Opens in 1999 and 2005. Both the U.S. Open and Women's Open will be played on the course on back-to-back weeks in 2014.
Talks With Scotland County
Relations between the county and the village worsened several weeks ago when the village announced its offer to buy the water and sewer treatment plants in a rural area near Wagram in Scotland County. The water and sewer plants formerly served the WestPoint Pepperell plant, located on the Lumber River. The village offered $5.5 million for the two plants, intake lines and surrounding acreage.
The facilities are privately owned, but the sale cannot be consummated without approval of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners. State regulations require county approval before water facilities can be acquired by out-of-county entities.
Revelation of the negotiations over the Wagram facilities has led to widespread speculation about other negotiations involving not only the village of Pinehurst but also Scotland County, the city of Laurinburg and Moore County.
In his report to the commissioners Monday, Brobst said the county has engaged in discussions and/or negotiations for water purchase contracts with several local governments, including Mont-gomery and Harnett counties, Aberdeen, Southern Pines, Carth-age, Robbins and Laurinburg.
McSwain said that the county has discussed a joint study of the WestPoint Pepperell utilities with the city of Laurinburg but said the county has made no commitment. An article in The Laurinburg Exchange last week quoted Laurinburg City Manager Ed Burchins as saying that Moore County had agreed to pay $25,000 as its half of the cost. The Laurinburg City Council has voted unanimously to transfer $25,000 from its utility fund to pay its half of the cost.
The study would include examination of costs associated with renovation and expansion of the industrial facilities.
Laurinburg has operated its own water and sewer systems for years and has had no water shortage. Scotland County is in the process of developing a countywide water system.
Apparently, both Laurinburg and Scotland County have expressed interest in a possible purchase of the WestPoint facilities. It is estimated that renovations to convert the industrial utilities into public utilities would be costly. The state permit has expired and would require renewal before the plants could become operational again.
Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commis-sioners, said Thursday that he was unaware of any commitment by the county to join Laurinburg in a study of the Scotland County utilities.
Picerno defended Moore County's efforts to update and improve utilities and said the county is carrying out this work as quickly as possible.
In response to a complaint by a Pinehurst official that the county has allocated little or no money from the enterprise fund to pay for Pinehurst utility improvements, Picerno said the county has spent millions on village improvements.
The latest project, replacement of sewer lift stations around Lake Pinehurst, is being funded by federal stimulus money.
Picerno said the county was planning to spend enterprise money for this project but decided to use the federal money because it was available and would retain local funds for other needed projects.
The enterprise fund consists of user fees collected from customers to cover utility operational costs and capital improvements.
"We were going to do it anyway," Picerno said. "The stimulus money was an opportunity, and we took advantage of an opportunity."
Picerno said that the Pinehurst utility systems are old and in need of considerable work, and the county is addressing those needs as quickly as it can, but it does take time.
"We're doing prudent planning based on the McGill study," he said of the comprehensive countywide water study that was funded by the county and other local governments. "We paid for it, and we want to follow its advice.
"We're trying to make sure there is an adequate supply of safe and clean water for our customers."
The county's ad in today's newspaper lists a series of obstacles the county says the village created while the lift station project was being initiated. The ad says that the village engineer helped to select the design engineer, but when the design was presented, the village responded with 110 objections.
The county says that those issues were later resolved after a meeting with village officials, but the village later added other conditions, further delaying the project.
Because of deadlines connected with acceptance of the stimulus money, the county reports that the county attorney was asked to research the issue, and based on her findings, the county decided to move ahead on its own. The contract has been awarded and work has begun on the lift station replacements.
Picerno said that the county met once with Laurinburg officials to discuss the Wagram utilities but made no commitment at that time.
Other projects scheduled in Pinehurst this year, according to Brobst's report, include construction of an elevated tank at a cost estimated at $1.6 million, but which came in under budget, and a $5.5 million project to rehabilitate the Old Town sewer system, involving about 5 1/2 miles of sewer lines.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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