County, Robbins to Hold Water Talks
By John Lentz
A possible source for Moore County's future water supply will be under consideration tomorrow when the county Board of Commissioners and the Robbins Board of Commissioners hold a joint meeting on the issue.
The county is considering ways to meet a short-term demand for an additional 1 million gallons per day (mgd) for the next 10 years and an additional 3 million mgd for 30 years.
The 120 million-gallon capacity Charlie Brooks Reservoir, once the water source for Robbins but currently inactive, has been identified as a potential source.
Officials stress that Moore County can meet present water demands. At issue is future growth. By 2040, Moore County's water customer base is projected to grow from 24,838 to 41,540, with nearly 20,000 water customers requiring an average of 4.3 mgd.
The county currently supplies its customers an average of 2.755 mgd, with a maximum demand of almost 4.7 million. By 2040, the maximum daily demand would climb to 7.35 mgd.
At the April 3 meeting, County Commissioner Craig Kennedy explained what he hopes will be an amenable position for both sides.
"It would be a partnership between the county and the town of Robbins, and Robbins would keep their current customers and current infrastructure (while) the county would need a utility right of way to be able to have access to the reservoir," he said. "We would commit to updating the intakes on Bear Creek and Cabin Creek, and would commit to keeping the reservoir full. We would also need to locate a piece of property to build our plant on, and we would make the town of Robbins a bulk rate customer. In that offer, there would be no money changing hands."
Kennedy said that he had spoken with "several" Robbins board members, and "that's what they're expecting us to offer them."
"A year ago we sent proposals for the county to take over the entire system, but the Robbins board didn't want that," he said. "I asked some board members in 'off the cuff' discussions what they would think of the idea if the town kept everything and entered into a utility easement agreement to share the reservoir, an agreement in which the county cleaned up the reservoir and got it back in operation. After explaining it that way they seemed open to the idea, so I think a -partnership may be the only way to make this option feasible."
But Moore County Commissioner Tim Lea suggested that those plans might be premature. "The commissioners I've talked to in Robbins have shown no interest in giving away that asset," Lea said. "They feel like it's very valuable, and they feel like it's one that they need to be compensated for in some way."
Lea asked the board to remember that due to the time needed to set up the system with Robbins, "other options" must still be considered.
"Unless there's been some arrangement made that I'm unaware of, I don't think we're in a position to offer anything," Lea said. We've still got options in Asheboro, Randolph County, Harnett County, Lee County, Wagram and Laurinburg. All of those are still on the table."
Lea said that in addition to creating consortiums or partnerships with those counties and municipalities, other possible water sources for Moore County include drilling for more wells.
"If the arrangement with Robbins is a long-term -consideration, we will also have to take into account the proposed $1.5 -million upgrade to bring another 1 million gallons a day from Harnett County, and we're also going to have to take into consideration the drilling of more wells at $5.5 million," Lea said. "They're going to have to be taken into account as well because those are things we've talked about doing in the interim. Even if we struck a deal with Robbins today, it will take five to seven years before we ... could pump water through the pipes."
Another option for Robbins, Kennedy said, would be for the county to exercise an option to buy a water line that served Robbins from Montgomery County during a previous water shortage.
"Our attorney is looking into this at the moment, and if I understand it correctly, the county would have the option to purchase this line from the town of Robbins at $400,000," Kennedy said. "The question is whether or not we want to exercise that option."
In his March 6 presentation to the county Board of Commissioners, Moore County Public Works Director Randy Gould discussed a series of options for the Robbins project that included a combined estimated cost of $29.6 million for the 10- and 30-year periods.
Gould will present similar information at Monday's joint event.
While county officials were willing to consider various options regarding a partnership with Robbins, town officials remained more circumspect.
"I hope everyone will come to the meeting with an open mind and that all parties will benefit," said Robbins Mayor Lonnie English, who said he preferred not to comment on "anything specific" about water negotiations prior to Monday's event. "I'm glad we have this opportunity to try working together."
Mayor Pro Tem Rocky Davis called Monday's event "just another meeting."
Davis refused comment on the importance of the meeting to both parties. "I'm open to what they have to present," he said.
Moore County Commissioners' Chairman Larry Caddell said he was "really optimistic" no matter what the outcome of the meeting may be.
"This represents a long-term and a short-term solution to the water issue in Moore County," Caddell said. "I believe that coming to an agreement will be good for the county and will be really big for the town of Robbins."
Caddell also said that "doing business at home" by partnering with a local entity would be another advantage for the community. "I am hoping and praying that they will be receptive, but if we can't work it out there will be no hard feelings," he said. "I think all the players would like to see a good result, but what it boils down to is whether or not this can be done while still looking out for our rate-paying customers. That's the bottom line. Still, I'm really optimistic no matter what happens."
The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church, at 651 East Hemp St., in Robbins.
Contact John Lentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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