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No rush to decide on water supply issues for Chatham County

Posted Monday, August 7, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Board of Commissioners has apparently agreed to spend $32 million to obtain water from Harnett County, including $8.7 million to upgrade Harnett's water treatment plant. Just this year the current board has already transferred $5 million from the fund balance to accommodate the Harnett County option.

There is no eminent or catastrophic emergency that constitutes a rush to decision. This is particularly true when you consider that there are $32 million of taxpayer monies at stake, and there appears to be no strategic business plan, no cost / benefit analysis, and more viable options may be available. The use of large sums of taxpayer monies requires the benefit of open dialog and public input. To move forward without these critical discussions would be fiscally irresponsible.

Here are some of the points that need to be considered before the Commissioners make any contractual agreements to purchase water from Harnett County. These points are based on numerous interviews that we have conducted with County water officials, experts, and contractors over the last 2 months.

1. Hobbs Upchurch, the consulting firm that provides advice to the County on water supply issues, estimates that we could upgrade our current water intake (with Cary) and water treatment plant on Jordan lake to supply an average of 6 million gallons per day for a total cost of 11million dollars. It is estimated that this would provide an adequate water supply for at least 10 years. Jordan Lake is mostly in Chatham County and we should take advantage of it.

2. We could begin immediately to request an increased water allocation from Jordan Lake to provide for water needs beyond the year 2016. Increasing our allocation to 10-12 million gallons per day should provide us with an adequate water supply far into the future. The citizens have not been presented any evidence that this increased allocation would not be approved given the obvious growth pressure the county will continue to face.

3. We could begin immediately to explore a regional water supply with Pittsboro, Siler City, Goldston as well as OWASA, Durham and other interested parties. Increased participation would mean a greater chance of an increase in our Jordan lake allocation at a much lower cost.

4. Our current water supply problems have been caused by massive and unconditional approvals of new developments without adequate attention to infrastructure needs. Water and school construction problems are the most prominent examples of the current board majority's' "development at any cost" approach.

Thus, we urge the Board of Commissioners not to approve any contracts with Harnett County until the citizens of Chatham have an opportunity to provide input on an issue that is extraordinarily important for their quality of life and their pocketbooks. Moreover, any decision concerning plans to meet our long-term water supply problems should be a decision of the new board of commissioners who will come into office in December, not a lame duck board majority whose unplanned growth policies were overwhelmingly repudiated by the voters by May.

George Lucier, Commissioner-elect District 3

Carl Thompson, Commissioner-elect District 5

Tom Vanderbeck, Commissioner candidate District 4

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