Robbins Offers Its Own Terms on Water
Robbins will include all town water facilities in a new North West Moore Water District if other conditions meet with approval by the county commissioners.
The town board agreed on terms during its June meeting Thursday night.
The county’s offer included assumption by the North West Moore Water District (NWMD) of $316,334 in town debt on the water plant and another $927,555 debt on the wastewater treatment plant. NWMD would also take over the Charles B. Brooks reservoir, the town’s water intake and impoundment structures, tanks, pipes and associated equipment.
For its part, Moore County would transfer tanks, pipes and equipment from the county system serving the Seven Lakes area to NWMD and would operate the new district.
Robbins Commissioner Lynn Loy stressed that this counteroffer represents the town’s wishes and is subject to further refining negotiation.
“They’ve told us what they want,” Loy said. “Now we are telling them what we want.”
One potential sticking point is the composition of NMWD’s governing board.
In the county proposal, that board simply consists of the members of the Moore County Board of Commis-sioners, the same setup used for the East Moore Water District board. Robbins wants an independent authority governed by a board made up of representatives from within the area served.
Robbins would need “direct voting representation” on the NMWD board, town commissioners said. Their response is a consensus reached without objection but is nonbinding and unofficial until voted on in an open meeting and approved by majority vote.
NMWD would have to take the town’s entire system and its operation, both water and sewer, not just water alone.
“We could not sell the water and not sell the sewer,” Commissioner Hal “Rocky” Davis said. “It (sewer) could not sustain itself.”
Most wastewater treatment systems across the state run losses that are made up by income from water customers, said Davis, who is director of public works for Carthage.
Absent a lease or loan deal, any water or sewer facilities and land actually transferred from the town to NMWD or the county would have to be paid for “at fair market value” rather than “appraised value” or “tax value.”
While the reservoir and surrounding land might attract a hefty price, there could be little or no demand for the long-closed water plant or the modernized sewer plant. How much some investor would pay to buy both systems together is hard to figure, so “fair market value” would be left to negotiation, the board agreed.
Board members were worried by a conversation Commissioner Claire A. Barrow reported having with Nick Picerno, chairman of the county board of commissioners, about an apparent trespass on posted land at the reservoir.
“He told me it was his dream to dam up Bear Creek and build a reservoir four to five times as big,” Barrow said.
She said Picerno had stopped by her store, Middleton Mercantile, after going up to the reservoir with Bryan and Kenneth Allen.
Bryan Allen lives just out of town on a hill overlooking Brooks Reservoir. He and his brother had each spoken during a recent public hearing on the NMWD proposal. Board members, checking the minutes, noted that Kenneth Allen was reported saying “if approved by the state, even more water could be backed up in that area due to the outlay of the land.”
The board has been very interested in protecting and developing recreational use of the creeks and the growing network of Foothills Outdoors hiking trails in the Robbins area. Those concerns are reflected in a number of points in the town’s proposal.
“Development of reservoir property shall not negatively impact or flood any existing Robbins municipal property or town residential properties,” the counteroffer says. “Development of reservoir property shall not alter the existing flow of Cabin Creek or Bear Creek. Bear Creek trail access and use shall be retained in perpetuity.”
A police firing range presently set up on a section of flat land between the reservoir and creek would also have to be retained in perpetuity, according to the town’s proposal.
Some of the trails cross privately held land by agreement with owners. Town property abuts the Standard Mineral Co. Cabin Creek runs through that property. A Norfolk and Western right-of-way currently leased to Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railway crosses Bear Creek to run between the reservoir and creek.
Board members worried about ceding control of the town’s ability to provide water and sewer services to any outside authority that would then determine how much water would be available in Robbins and how much the town could promise potential industries.
“Economic growth and development depend on them,” Davis said. “Towns that give up their water and sewer services forfeit the economic ability to grow.”
He said he has been checking out the cost of drilling wells for water supply and setting up new micro-processing systems as an alternative to joining NMWD.
“We could put in 500,000-gallon pre-treatment and two 125,000-gallons-a-day processing stations,” Davis said.
He said that would cost about $2 million to $2.5 million.
Commissioner Terri Holt worried the town would be in debt to the limit if it borrowed that much. Town Manager George Hayfield said Robbins had more than enough borrowing ability under state limits.
“We have about $4 million in borrowing ability,” he said, taking into account present debt. “We could do it.”
Joey Boswell liked the idea of Robbins remaining self-sufficient and independent.
“We can supply water for our community, and keep our resources,” Boswell said.
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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