County Agrees on Framework for Water Talks With Robbins
After a lively debate about water negotiations protocol with Robbins, the Moore County Board of Commissioners on Thursday reached consensus on “Plan A” to start with discussions between the two local governments’ attorneys.
The work session held at the Board of Elections office in Carthage attracted a larger than normal attendance, because the main topic was discussion of water options.
The five commissioners agreed that they would prefer to reach agreement with Robbins about infrastructure needs, a reservoir and water purchases.
But they also agreed that negotiations between the two governments have dragged on too long and it’s time to take action before another water crisis emerges.
“It is not a crisis now, which I’m grateful for, but we’ve just seen what happened in Washington with the debt ceiling,” said Chairman Nick Picerno. “I don’t want to put it aside now because it’s not a crisis.”
Picerno suggested that the topic should be on the agenda at least for every other board meeting until the issue is resolved. The chairman added that he is willing to discuss negotiations with Robbins leaders at the board’s next closed (to the public) session.
But Commissioner Tim Lea said that the fact that the county has a more than adequate supply of water at this time means there is time to study the options in more detail before making a decision. And he proposed that the matter be discussed in open session.
Commissioner Larry Caddell said the water issue had been under discussion ever since he has served on the board. He had no objections to discussing it in open session as long as the Robbins board consents.
However, Commissioner Jimmy Melton said the negotiations should be handled in closed session because “we can have an honest, open discussion in closed session.” He said the board’s direction on the matter would then become available for public discussion.
“We’ve beat this horse to death since 2005, Lea said. “We’ve had a number of closed sessions, and we’re back where we began.”
In fact, Lea said he was willing to engage in the discussion with Robbins leaders “right now.” Robbins Mayor Theron Bell and some town board members were in the audience.
That raised another flurry of questions when the point was made that not all of the Robbins board members were present, and such a discussion, not announced in advance and not involving everyone, would be unfair.
The commissioners discussed what they later laughingly referred to as Plans A, B and C. Plan A, upon which they finally reached consensus, calls for County Attorney Misty Leland and Robbins Town Attorney Doug Gill to discuss the open versus closed meeting issue and report back to their respective boards. Plans B and C involved such methods as appointing representatives from each board to negotiate or discussing in open or closed session.
The lively discussion followed a presentation on the availability of water in the county and options for securing more water to meet growth needs at least through 2030.
Randy Gould, newly appointed public works director, prepared the presentation, which covered everything from average daily demand to several options involving neighboring counties as well as Robbins.
Earlier in the meeting the board received an overview on a proposed update and recommended changes to the county’s purchasing policy and procedures manual. The presentation was the work of Robert Garner, a summer legal intern in the county attorney’s office.
More details about this meeting will appear in the print version of The Pilot on Sunday.
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