Robbins Gives OK on Wells, Opposes VIPER System
Robbins is moving ahead to seek new wells as a source for town water.
At Thursday’s regular February board meeting, the commissioners directed the I.E. Wooten Co. to refocus its engineering efforts.
The board also voted to send a letter to the county opposing a request to help fund the new VIPER emergency communications system.
After an update from Wooten’s John Grey laid out a number of promising sites for test wells, the board agreed with his recommendation and voted unanimously to amend the scope of the existing contract.
Wooten is now to proceed toward obtaining N.C. Drinking Water State Revolving Fund financing for a well system and try to meet a May 31 deadline for ready to proceed status.
Robbins qualifies for an 80 percent “forgivable” interest-free loan of up to $1.5 million with the balance payable over 20 years, interim Town Manager Jeff Sheffield told the board.
Questioned by Mayor Lonnie B. English and other commissioners about costs, Grey said Robbins could save from $20 million to as much as $60 million over what the town would pay under its current plan of buying water from Montgomery County.
An alternate route of buying from Asheboro came in at an even higher price.
English wanted to know how long it could take before such a well system would be up and running.
“That depends,” Grey said, pointing out a number of questions that test wells would answer. If the water is clean and needs only chlorination, it would take less time, he said. Adding treatment would take longer, though needed processing systems could be installed at the old plant. Grey projected 18 months, perhaps as soon as December.
A number of previously considered test well locations are below the 100-year flood plain, and using any of them would mean expensive operations to add fill dirt, the board was told. The four sites Wooten’s hydraulic expert selected include only one — near one corner of the reservoir — that would need fill.
Another site on the other side near the reservoir point would require additional land purchase — though only if it were to become a production well.
One site, while on town land, would require access over privately owned property. That site is on the opposite side of Bear Creek from the reservoir.
All of the test wells — since they are drilled through rock — will be drilled to production size and standards. If they prove out, they can then be restyled as production wells. If only chlorination is needed, all one would see would be pipes.
If more well-site processing were to be needed, small structures about 10 by 20 feet would do, Grey told Commissioner Terri Holt when she asked about appearance.
On the VIPER matter, in addition to objecting to any town payment for equipment or service, the board also said it is opposed to that choice of emergency communications system itself.
In this, Robbins joins a view held by virtually every municipal police department and fire department in the county, according to Sheffield.
“I am speaking now as your chief of police,” Sheffield said. “VIPER doesn’t work up here, and it doesn’t work at all in buildings. Somebody is going to get killed. If a fireman is trapped inside and needs help, he won’t be able to call out with VIPER.
“We are going to end up getting killed — or, something we all hate to think about — we are going to end up killing somebody.”
VIPER is a narrow-band digital system designed for highway patrol used on Interstate highways here and in other parts of the country — in open country — the chief said.
“It is expensive,” Sheffield said. “It is like a name brand,” “I know of other systems that are more like Walmart.”
Davis agreed vigorously, and all complained that towns had been led to believe that if VIPER were mandated by county action, county funds would pay the cost. Sheffield still insisted that no matter how much or how little, this system would be worse than useless in the Robbins area — it would be dangerous.
The commissioners split on only one issue.
The board voted 3-2 for additional consultation from Lloyd B. McConnell, a certified public accountant (CPA) who has done town audits. Commissioner Clair A. Barrow said she’d called him with the idea of looking over current fiscal year expenditures to get ready for budget planning.
“I did not want to bring this up,” she said. “Mac said he was very concerned about the last audit, about the lack of experience of the people he had to work with.”
Commissioner Rocky Davis objected to spending this additional $600. He said such reports could easily be computer generated by the finance officer.
Barrow replied she hadn’t wanted to say anything, but that the CPA said he’d had trouble doing town audits.
Holt, Barrow and Kevin Stewart supported the motion, while Davis and Joey Boswell opposed.
Charter Issue Raised
During the comment period of the meeting, Davis raised another issue.
“I have been told that there are commissioners that are campaigning to go back to the mayor-council form of government,” Davis said. “This is probably one of the most politically corrupt forms of government. It is a step backward. With manager/council you’ve got a professional. You’ve got professional people running your systems.
“When you step back, you are going to amateurs. You are a whole lot more liable. It shouldn’t even be considered.
“It took this town a long time to get to a manager-council plan and start making some progress. You do that, and you start backing up.”
Boswell agreed, again pointing out the risk of personal liability.
After the meeting, English said he would oppose any effort to change the charter.
Barrow warned about a coming land use and appraisal plan that, based on a working document, she worried would impact every landowner in the county.
The board also agreed to call a special meeting for Feb. 14 to open sealed bids on the fire station project.
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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