County Closer to Water Deal with Morganton, Moves Ahead with My Mountain Project

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Fannin County Water Authority Chairman Mike Queen announced this week that the county has reached a verbal agreement with the city of Morganton to purchase water. The announcement came on Wednesday September 26th, during the water authority’s monthly meeting, which was postponed from last week.

“Chairman Simonds and I met with Mike England the (Morganton) mayor,”

he said,

“sat down (with him) and went through the numbers…trying to figure out why their costs were really exorbitant.”

The first time the county met with Morganton, the county was quoted $5 per 1000 gallons to purchase water. The second time they met, Morganton increased the cost estimate to $10 per 1000 gallons. In last month’s meeting, Queen said some of the alleged factors for the increase were pumps and lab fees, for which Morganton pays $2700, and a $350-a-month testing fee, also paid by Morganton. Following the recent meeting, however, Morganton revised its price to $3.75 per 1000 gallons.

Also during the meeting, County Attorney Lynn Doss announced the county is waiting final approval of a water purchase deal with Blue Ridge. According to the current state of the contract, she said the county will purchase water from Blue Ridge for $2.25 per 1000 gallons with a minimum purchase of 20,000 gallons. The deal is a five-year contract with a one-year opt-out, meaning the county or the city can get out of the contract with a one year advance notice. Doss said the county is waiting for the contract’s approval from Blue Ridge Attorney David Syfan. Doss noted the county accepted all of the changes Blue Ridge requested, so Syfan will simply have to accept his changes. “Mayor Whitener is hoping that they sign off on it at their next meeting,” Doss said.

During this week’s meeting, the water authority was also given an update on the My Mountain project. Carter and Sloope Project Engineers Matt Smith and Kurt McCord brought copies of the plans for the project’s Phase I water line extension. Smith gave the plans to the Phase I Home Owners’ Association (HOA) President to share with residents. Additionally, the authority agreed to hold a copy in the courthouse as well, so residents can review them.

Smith explained that Carter and Sloope, who is engineering the project, is still in the process of getting the last of the telephone lines marked, which he said they have been working on since January. He also discussed the booster pump station at the Ford property and the water tank. According to the discussion, everything with the ground storage tank is complete, with the exception of the plans they must send to EPD (Environmental Protection Department) for approval. Smith said the plans are 60-70 percent complete. Currently, the company is working on the minor grading around the tank.

One initial obstacle with bringing county water to the My Mountain community was securing a minimum of 224 customers. In Wednesday’s meeting, the issue came up again. The president of the phase I HOA said he could probably get 115 to 120 out the 140 residents, which is partially due to property owners who do not live on the community year-round. President of Phase II John Dunson said he could likely only get 65 to sign on, but said he did not want to commit to any definite number. Queen said that they could probably pick up some more customers along Highway 515 once construction begins. In the interim, though, the county will have to pay for the deficit in customers to repay the loan. If 200 customers sign on for the new county water service, the county would have to pay the cost of the remaining 24. One estimate discussed in the meeting was $900 to $1000 a month. The county would have to pay this amount until a total of 224 or more customers sign up for the service. The number, though, was simply an estimate, not an actual amount.

“This is the gamble of doing business,”

Queen said. However, he remained confident the county will acquire the necessary number of customers.

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