County, Robbins Discuss Joint Water Deal
Moore County officials have put forward a proposal to the Robbins town commissioners to build a new treatment plant — drawing water from Bear Creek at first and later from Deep River — that would continuously fill the reservoir at Robbins and supply the plant.
The proposal came during a joint meeting between the Moore County commissioners and the Robbins Town Board.
The question at hand is whether the two could work out a jointly advantageous plan to share resources to meet anticipated future water demands.
A new water plant would supply a growing base of county water customers and provide water to Robbins at bulk rates, charging only the cost of production.
Among those attending Monday’s meeting were many present and former officials, including former Robbins Mayors Theron Bell and Mickey Brown. Others included Moore County Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Coughlin, former Robbins Town Administrator James Britt, former Robbins Town Manager George Hayfield and its interim Town Manager, Jeff Sheffield, who is also police chief.
As groundwork for the discussion, county Public Works Director Randy Gould repeated much of a previous presentation he’d been giving on the county’s growing population and expected demands for water. This time he focused on potential plans involving Robbins, but also laid out other optional sources commissioners are considering.
“We are looking at a primary option for Robbins as a water source,” Gould said. “The presentation will cover water demands. Robbins is the base. We are looking at Robbins — we are looking at new wells, at Harnett County — we are lucky in that we have a number of options.”
He pictured a 10-year model looked at getting 1.5 million gallons per day (mgd) by constructing a new Robbins plant. Robbins would need about 400,000 gallons of that a day, leaving the rest for Moore County customers.
This 10-year plan calls for a new water plant and pump, a new raw water intake and two pump upgrades, running a 16-inch main from that new Robbins plant to a tank at the old Century Furniture plant, running a 16-inch main along Mount Carmel Road and a 12-inch line along Dowd Road.
The projected cost: $14.1 million.
In addition, a 30-year Robbins plan would expand that new water treatment plant and then draw 2.2 mgd from Deep River, build another 16-inch main line — this one along Beulah Hill Road to Seven Lakes — then add a new million-gallon tank on N.C. 73 and a 16-inch line along that state highway east of Seven Lakes.
Those two phases would produce an additional 3.3 mgd. That would satisfy an estimated county demand of 2.65 mgd by 2040.
That second phase would cost Moore County $15.1 million.
‘A Starting Point’
Neither Robbins nor the county would buy or sell property or resources to the other in this proposed partnership.
Instead, Robbins would simply let the county use its reservoir, its right-of-way for a Deep River intake and water main, its land for a plant site, and related connections and tanks — all to be county-maintained. There would be no out-of-pocket cost to the town.
In return, Robbins could buy county treated water at a favorable price expected to be lower than what the town now pays for Montgomery County water.
“I don’t see you bearing any costs,” County Commissioner Nick Picerno said. “We would pay the cost to upgrade the infrastructure at a cost of $29 million. What you would do for us is provide access to your reservoir.”
Robbins Mayor Lonnie English said he was open to working together and promised his board would consider the proposal.
“What we have to do is come back to you and say if we want to partner,” English said. “I understand what you are saying. And, to keep an open mind about it, it would help this end of the county if we did that. I don’t know what that new water plant would mean, but it is another thing that Robbins needs.”
County Commissioner Tim Lea thought the estimated $29 million cost was low.
“We haven’t included what the interest rate would be, and we don’t have this money in a capital reserve fund,” Lea said. “That would take the cost to $40 million.”
Despite any high investment cost, Commis-sioners’ Chairman Larry Caddell said if something reasonable could be worked out between them, he could take it back and sell it to taxpayers as a long-term fix that he thought they would approve.
County customers would have to pay more to cover the cost of ensuring an available supply of water. Each alternative the county is looking at would add to the average $53 county water bill.
The two-phase Robbins plan would combine a $9.85 bump in 10 years with a later $7.61 monthly increase for the 30-year plan. None of that would affect Robbins customers.
‘Meeting for Years’
Robbins Commissioner Hal “Rocky” Davis — who is also public works director for Carthage — wanted assurances that Robbins would be guaranteed enough water for growth.
“Looking at a partnership this long, we are concerned that we have water available to us from this new plant,” Davis said. “The other thing we can look at is that we already have the right-of-way all the way to Deep River now.
“I think the biggest thing we need to look at is we need some assurances that we are going to have reasonably priced water in bulk purchase. We have some pretty high water and sewer rates now. Our rates are high for a little bit of water.”
County Commissioner Jimmy Melton sought to reassure Robbins.
“We are not up here to take over anything or take advantage of anything,” Melton said. “This is not the only thing we are going to be looking at. This is going to be several years out.”
In the meantime, Robbins is drilling test wells in hopes of adding additional water sources. It would be two or three years at a minimum before any new plant could be online.
“The idea is you retain what you have,” Kennedy said. “We partner by building the plant, running the plant, maintaining the reservoir and providing you bulk water. Everything from Bear Creek to Deep River to keep that reservoir full would be at our expense — also everything from the plant to Seven Lakes — what you deliver to your customers would be yours.”
The next step will be for Robbins to decide whether to pursue this partnership, and then the two parties would negotiate how much water Robbins could draw, what amount of available water would be reserved to the town, and any other limits over the two phases.
“I know you have been meeting for years and years,” English said. “The monkey is on our back to come back and tell you what we think.”
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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