Robbins Board Holds Hearing on Water Deal
There was no doubt about what Robbins and Moore County should do about a proposed Northwest Moore Water District at Tuesday’s public hearing.
Every speaker during the advertised public hearing strongly endorsed the idea of the county taking over all the water business — fresh supply as well as wastewater — from the town. That would free Robbins from a burdensome debt and troublesome outdated infrastructure while moving toward a regional plan for critical water supply.
Prior to Mayor Theron Bell opening the floor for the hearing, she recognized Town Manager George Hayfield who offered an outlined overview of the present county offer for the inclusion of Robbins in a new Northwest Moore Water District (NWMWD.
As presented by Hayfield, the Moore County proposal would create a Northwest Moore Water District (NWMWD) and combine Seven Lakes and Robbins as its primary customers.
The county would then pursue the $16,000,000 bond voters previously approved and use funds to build a new 1.5 million gallons/day water plant on Robbins Reservoir property, construct a new water line to serve Seven Lakes. The Seven Lakes Water System along with its customer base would join the Robbins Water System along with its customer base. Both would be in NWMWD.
Under the county's initial proposal, Robbins would have to transfer to NWMWD ownership of the Charles B. Brooks Reservoir, the town's raw water impoundment, all system water lines, its three water towers and its entire customer base.
Hayfield listed the present value of Robbins Water/Sewer System assets as: Charles B Brooks Reservoir: $4,000,000; Reservoir Pump Station: $107,364; Raw Water Pump Station: $46,115; Tracy Brown Water Tank: $240,319; Milliken Park Water Tank: $430,944; N.C. 705 Water Tank: $840,284; Treatment Train 1: $1,914,600; Treatment Train 2: $1,914,600; Aerobic Digester 1: $174,000; Aerobic Digester 2: $698,300; and Influent Pump Station: $601,700.
The estimated total value would be around $10,968,226 based on these assessments, Hayfield said.
According to the county’s current NWMWD proposal, Moore County would make no initial capital investment while Robbins would be asked to gift upwards of $7 million n water infrastructure to form NWMWD, he said. The district would then take on $1,244,000 of Robbins water and sewer system debt. Following district formation the town — as an authority member — would pay a portion of this past debt while also paying a portion of the debt for the $3.6 million Seven Lakes water line and the new $8.51 million water plant plus cost of improvements to the reservoir and the impoundment.
The public presently entertains a number of fallacies and misinformation in their expectations for what the new water district would mean, according to Hayfield. Among them is the notion that joining NWMWD would mean lower water rates for Robbins. There is no evidence for that, he said, noting that rates in the East Moore Water District are already higher than in Robbins. There is no evidence that NWMWD would supply higher quality water despite rumor to that effect.
The change would not mean lower property taxes in Robbins, because water and sewer operations are never paid by property tax. Robbins joining a water district would have no effect on property tax, Hayfield said.
Moore County is not currently proposing to take over wastewater operations in Robbins, he said. It wants water only. Many think forming NWMWD would mean a large supply of water could become available for commercial development in Northern Moore. Hayfield said that would be unlikely, because out of the 1.5 million gallons/day current usage calls for 800,000 gallons/day for Seven Lakes and 200,000 gallons/day for Robbins. Only 500,000 gallons/day would be left from the 1.5 gallons/day output of the proposed new plant. He noted that Seven Lakes is one of the fastest growing areas in Moore County.
Hayfield listed a number of responses to the Moore County NWMWD Proposal that Robbins might consider:
• Sell water and sewer facilities to Moore County for $8 million
• Beginning year three NWMWD pay a total of $5.1 million in installments
• Robbins partners with county and builds larger plant
• Robbins leases property and facilities to county
• Robbins transfers all water and sewer assets to the County at no cost.
• Robbins does nothing with NWMWD – seeks other options
• Robbins explores the option of water purchase from Asheboro and Randolph County.
• Robbins considers the option of wells at the reservoir property and keeps Montgomery or Asheboro as backup.
When the public hearing began, Brian Allen — former co-president of Northern Moore Tomorrow — urged the board to accept any proposal that would take Robbins out of the water business and end its longtime struggle.
“This is a golden opportunity to consider partnering, selling, leasing — but absolutely get out of the water/sewer business," Allen said. "If the county would absorb that, it would send a message against the notion that the bottom end would never help do anything for us. Keep the water system? I don't understand why. The reservoir is down about seven feet, so it's about 50 percent down. The dam is badly in need of repairs. That line for the raw water intake was built in the 1940s. We would be looking at millions to put it back on line.”
Allen lives just outside city limits on a hill overlooking the reservoir.
“If we don’t get out from under, it’s going to pull the town down,” he said. “The county has financial backing and resources. Can you imagine Robbins debt free?”
Others felt much the same way, provided details of any final agreement were fair to Robbins.
“I wouldn't give it too ’em," said Jerry Brown. "That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Allen’s brother, Kenneth Allen, sees the water district as something advantageous to everybody.
“I see a win/win for you all, for those who live here and those who don’t — personally I’d say let the county take charge of everything,” he said. “Water and sewer, let them have it. With our infrastructure as it is Robbins is in dire need. With a new system, and with the amount of water in Bear and Cabin creeks, Moore County could back us. You'd have no overhead.
The county has what it takes to get out here and take care of business. We’ve lost three years already. The county is able to get water from right here; with a reservoir kept pumped full at all times, we'd be covered in case of drought. The town focus could be on fire, police — things right here in Robbins.”
In response to a question Hayfield said the district would set rates as in the East Moore district; the town would be dependent on the county water authority.
Otis Ritter had had enough. He said he'd been force to work all his life in Raleigh and Aberdeen, because there were no jobs in Robbins. He wanted to know if the town had made any offer of its own in response.
"Has there been any counter-offer to this?" Ritter asked. "Even when you trade cars, you argue the price. (‘Amens’ from the crowd) Put a proposal together and say what we are willing to do. (more Amens) If what they are offering is not what you want, tell them what you want. Folks, you need to talk to the county commission, if they will talk with you. I believe there is a Mason-Dixon Line through this county down there about Carthage. We need to get out, folks.”
Ritter spoke energetically, and when he sat down his comments were met with applause. As the hearing ended, the mayor asked others to write and e-mail board members.
“We are going to make a decision very shortly,” Bell said. “Please let us know what you think.”
June 9 is the next regular meeting of the Robbins board.
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