STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON
FEBRUARY 15, 1999
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 5:00 p.m. in the Commissioners' Conference Room of the Henderson County Office Building.
Those present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chair Bill Moyer, Commissioner Renee Kumor, Commissioner Don Ward, Commissioner Marilyn Gordon, County Manager David E. Nicholson, and Assistant County Manager Angela S. Beeker.
Also present were: County Engineer Gary Tweed, Staff Attorney Jennifer O. Jackson, Finance Director J. Carey McLelland, and Architect Bill Lapsley.
Absent was: Clerk to the Board Elizabeth W. Corn.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order at 5:34 p.m. and welcomed all in attendance. He stated that the purpose of this was a work session on some sewer issues. He explained that since it was a work session there would be no public comments. There will be time on Wednesday (at the regular Commissioners= meeting) for those as well as the hot-line which is called County Comments and each of the Commissioners has e-mail.
Two things Chairman Hawkins wanted to come from this meeting:
1. What response the Board wants to the correspondence from Mayor Niehoff, reference the Mud Creek purchase. A copy of the letter was included in the agenda packet for this meeting.
2. Is the Board ready to make a comment back to the LGCCA on exactly how the Board wants to approach extensions of the Hendersonville system out into other parts of the county.
PRESENTATION BY BILL LAPSLEY
Mr. Lapsley thanked the Board for asking him to come. Chairman Hawkins had approached him several months ago and asked that he gather some thoughts and put them together for discussion today regarding county wide sewer issues.
Mr. Lapsley wanted to look at the topic differently without specifically looking at projects for the individual municipalities. He stated that the first key question the Board needs to decide is whether the county wants to address the sewer need and take a leadership role in that or delegate that to someone else whether it be in the private sector or the public sector.
Defined Goal - To make public wastewater disposal services available to all citizens and businesses in the urbanizing area of Henderson County.
Criteria for achieving the goal:
Over-riding question is ADo we as a community want to have a public sewer system?@
Bill Lapsley then reviewed the following four topics for discussion:
I. IDENTIFY AREAS IN NEED OF SEWER SERVICE
He distributed color maps and reviewed them:
Brown areas were areas of Hendersonville having public sewer.
Green areas were where MCWSD has extended sewer lines that are connected
to the City of Hendersonville.
One shaded green area was the Town of Fletcher where they have public sewer service.
Blue line showed the outer limits of the MCWSD.
Green Line showed the outer limits of the CCWSD.
Purple/Pink line was an arbitrary line drawn by Mr. Lapsley
as his prediction of areas which will need public sewer
service in the future.
II. HOW ARE WE CURRENTLY MEETING THE NEED FOR PUBLIC SEWER SERVICE?
Six agencies of local government are all doing their own thing plus the private sector is filling in when the others fail to meet the need.
There are more than fifty private sewer treatment facilities inside the purple boundary or urbanized area and even more in the planning stage.
III. IS THE CURRENT APPROACH SUCCESSFUL IN MEETING THE NEED?
Obviously it is not. There is mounting pressure on all local government entities to expand the public systems into the developing area.
The needs are not being met which has created a serious potential public health problem. It has forced the private sector to construct its own facilities.
This current approach is fragmented non-responsive and has created confusion for the consumer and the private sector developers.
IV. DOES THE CURRENT APPROACH MEET THE CONDITIONS OF OUR STATED GOAL?
1. Uniform Service
We have two agencies maintaining sewer lines in the north (MSD & CCWSD) and a third (Fletcher) indicating an interest in owning and operating a sewer system.
We have two agencies in the south (City and MCWSD) maintaining sewer lines and a third (Flat Rock) moving forward to get in the business.
There are also numerous private systems in the needed service area.
So, the answer is Ano@ there is not a uniform level of service.
2. Efficient and Economical
Because of the fragmented operation, we have various agencies and private sector contractors all doing the same thing - operation, maintenance, billing, etc. The duplication of effort is getting worse every year.
The user is paying for this extra cost in the rate base.
So, the answer is Ano@ we do not have an efficient and economical approach
to providing sewer service.
For the most part, yes, the systems are responsive to the users. That is to say, the users have a means of addressing complaints by using the ballot box in the case of public systems and the NC Utility Commission in the case of the private systems.
The exception is MSD in the north. Users have no voice in their fees.
4. Rate Structure
The user fees are diverse and discriminatory. The fees paid that are paid in Fletcher and Hendersonville, in the County, and on private systems are all over the map. Each system operator has their own reasons for justifying their rate.
The bottom line is that the consumer (user) must check out which system is serving their property. This has caused confusion and discontent among the community.
V. ARE THERE STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO REVISE THE APPROACH TO MEET OUR STATED GOAL?
1. Uniform level of service
It is clear that there will be two distinct sewer service areas for the foreseeable future (next 20-30 yrs) within Henderson County.
a) Fletcher and Mills River area (north system)
b) Hendersonville, Flat Rock, Laurel Park (south system)
To achieve the goal, the actions taken by the Board should separate the two.
2. Efficient and Economical Service
a) North System
Meet with Town of Fletcher and MSD officials to
identify specific area to be served in the future.
Develop a plan to provide a single service provider
(either MSD, Fletcher, or CCWSD or a combination.)
b) South System
Meet with City of Hendersonville, Flat Rock and
Laurel Park officials to identify the specific area
to be served in the near future. Develop a plan to
Provide a single service provider (either City,
MCWSD, or joint operation.)
a) North System
Meet with Town of Fletcher and MSD officials to
explore establishment of Henderson County and/or
Fletcher representation on MSD Board.
B) South System
Meet with City of Hendersonville, Flat Rock and
Laurel Park official to explore establishment of
Single management entity to govern the operation
and maintenance of the system.
4. Rate Structure
a) North System
Meet with Town of Fletcher and MSD officials to
review the rate structure to make sure it is uniform
b) South System
Meet with City of Hendersonville, Flat Rock, and
Laurel Park officials to review the various rate
Structures to achieve a single uniform fee system
equitable to all parties (the users).
Mr. Lapsley stated that this is a broad picture of where he sees the Board of Commissioners going.
Chairman Hawkins opened the floor to discussion, thanking Mr. Lapsley for this presentation.
Bill Moyer: With respect to an entity, what type of entity are you talking about?
Bill Lapsley: He didn=t take a position on the type of entity. He suggested getting all the parties together and see if they agree with what the goal should be and then let the parties decide how to achieve that goal. There is a long list of options available.
Bill Moyer: How do we change the boundary of MCWSD?
David Nicholson: We cannot change the boundary except by a local bill. We can add to the area but cannot delete area from the boundary.
Bill Lapsley: The MCWSD boundary was set by the former Board of Commissioners as the area they felt could be served. They formed the district so they could borrow money, apply for grants, etc.
David Nicholson: The size of MCWSD can cause administrative problems. If the size of the MCWSD shrank you could assess taxes but the whole area wouldn=t get service quickly. If the size shrank it might be more manageable and then you could always expand the area.
Bill Moyer: Concerned over the obligation to serve the district.
Renee Kumor: Why isn=t MCWSD drawn for drainage and why aren=t the districts drawn for drainage? Why aren=t the districts drawn the way the flow would go naturally?
Bill Lapsley: The District lines were drawn before Hendersonville had any plans to expand the sewer plant at their existing site. The focus was to move the sewer plant down to the confluence of Mud Creek and the French Broad River.
Bill Lapsley: If you concur with his conclusion that we have a south system and a north system then the boundary doesn=t need to be as drawn. It needs to be redrawn so that the north system drains north.
David Nicholson: Referenced the numerous drainage basins in the county. You could feasibly have several smaller districts.
Renee Kumor: Once again referenced the logical sewer collection boundaries.
Marilyn Gordon: So there is a need to do a local bill to expand CCWSD and reduce MCWSD.
Don Ward: Traditionally our sewer projects end up costing more than anticipated. Basically we are in the transportation business. We are double taxing the citizens.
He wanted to take a firm look at the City=s proposal and let the City be the Sewer Authority in the south and let them have MCWSD but add a rate protection for the county customers. For the north district, call it the French Broad Authority or Service District and tie it in with the Town of Fletcher. Eliminate the CCWSD and go to an authority situation with representation from Board of Commissioners, Town of Fletcher, MSD and 2-3 people at large to serve from the community.
Renee Kumor: Disagreed with Mr Lapsley. Believes the growth out Hwy#64 will occur more rapidly than 20 years.
Bill Moyer: The problem he had with the proposal is we need a vehicle in place first to protect the county citizens on rates and getting service, then we could consider selling to the City of Hendersonville. Doesn=t like the Mayor=s proposal of community advisory committee because it has no teeth.
Marilyn Gordon: Thinks we could reach an agreement in the north on how to approach sewer service. Doesn=t think we have the same goal as the City in the south. If we sell MCWSD to the City how long would those users be county residents?
Grady Hawkins: Easiest solution is a bonafide Henderson County Water Authority. Contract it out to the City of Hendersonville or contract it out to the Town of Fletcher. You can protect the users in the contract regarding level of services, fees, criteria for extension of lines, etc.
Renee Kumor: Unless there is a binding agreement of some sort, the City Council can always override based on pressure from a developer or from anybody else. The Mayor will commit the current City Council but cannot commit future City Councils. So you must have something more binding.
Bill Moyer: Concentrate on two districts. Explore in each an entity that would protect rates and provide extension of service, etc.
Chairman Hawkins asked to move on to item III on the agenda - Policy Issues.
David Nicholson: Expressed that there is a relationship between growth and utilities. Sewer will direct growth. Henderson County is in the transportation business. We have to have the City of Hendersonville and MSD to treat the wastewater.
Marilyn Gordon: We can=t ignore the public health issue where growth has occurred without sewer.
Renee Kumor: Should we encourage developers to put proper infra-structure in to begin with?
David Nicholson: If we don=t, we end up like Wildwood Gardens. Their system was not built to standards. The developer built the system and turned it over to the county. You almost need to redo the system to make it operational.
Grady Hawkins: If you have a combined effort to look at extending your service to areas where you anticipate package plants failing in 10-20 years, establish a revenue stream to help lay the line for treatment. The bottom line is money. You have to have a revenue stream and generate enough growth to keep it growing.
Renee Kumor: May have to generate money to build the whole system up to a standard that Board of Commissioners would accept. May have to rebuild every system you take over. This goes back to Marilyn=s issue that public utilities are a public health issue.
Don Ward: We don=t want to get in a situation like the previous Board of Commissioners did where they took money out of the general fund to build the collector lines and then raised the rates to pay the debt to the general fund.
Marilyn Gordon: That would be one of the advantages of an authority. An authority would be able to get grants and generate its own tax. Wants to pursue the idea of a northern authority if we can=t accomplish a county-wide authority.
Grady Hawkins: Especially with MSD. We have an opportunity for some land in the Bent Creek area. He suspects at some time there will be a wastewater treatment plant go in there.
Don Ward: With two authorities you are double dipping on both ends. Realizes sewer is a county wide problem. If we could eliminate one of our districts and concentrate on the northern end we would eliminate one pool of money that we dip out of. May have to set up a service district for the east side of the county eventually.
Renee Kumor: Need to set up everything now and plan for the next 100 years.
Gary Tweed, County Engineer, showed a map. Stated that the whole north end needs to be developed based on drainage basins. Today we have some areas in Mud Creek that should be in Cane Creek. Based on his understanding must dissolve old district and form new district.
David Nicholson: We can=t eliminate Cane Creek Water and Sewer District without first paying off the debt. Mud Creek is not a problem.
Gary Tweed: 20 years ago he stood in a joint meeting with the County and the City looking at the very same issues and doing one entity. Because things have changed so drastically with interceptor lines being run in the north end of the county it has resulted in growth in that area.
Marilyn Gordon: Aren=t these areas best able to handle growth?
Gary Tweed: I see this (?) Area as your growth corridor.
David Nicholson: These are your land use issues. Top down zoning is important when you run sewer. First ask - where are the drainage basins? Which areas can be reasonably served? Who should serve them?
Carey McLelland distributed an update on the financial position.
David Nicholson: On 6/30/98 Cane Creek had a deficit of $624,662. Mud Creek had a profit of $166,654.
As of today, Cane Creek has added revenues of $284,275, Mud Creek has added another $103,739.
Bill Moyer: How does the Justice Academy affect this? The Justice Academy was not operational.
David Nicholson: The Justice Academy is not in MCWSD but if we followed the drainage basin, it would be.
Gary Tweed reviewed proposed capital projects. He distributed several hand-outs.
CANE CREEK PROPOSED SEWER INTERCEPTOR PROJECTS:
1. French Broad River/Mud Creek Interceptor
2. French Broad River/Mills River Interceptor
3. French Broad River/Mill Pond Creek Interceptor
4. McDowell Creek Interceptor
5. Boylston Creek Interceptor
6. French Broad Interceptor to Etowah
7. Shaw Creek
These projects would be very expensive. For #1 and #2 above the estimated cost is $1.5 million. This is staff=s Awish list@
Gary Tweed: Cane Creek should look at building the interceptors. Fletcher is primary collector sewers, tying into existing interceptors that are already there.
Grant applied for formerly failed because:
1. They don=t like to fund treatment plants.
2. Want us to be turned down for loans first before they
would fund a project.
Renee Kumor: If we establish a wastewater district, and you make it feasible for a wastewater treatment plant to hook on can we demand them to hook on?
David Nicholson: The State would do that for us when it comes time to recertify the plant.
No projects are ready to go for this grant cycle.
General discussion of grant requests:
Gary Tweed: We do meet some of the criteria but we don=t have a wastewater treatment facility so we would rate low on priority. Fletcher is ready to go with their project so they could possibly get funding.
David Nicholson: Plus with the widening of US #25, now is the time to do the Fletcher project.
Grady Hawkins: For the north end (Cane Creek area) especially with Fletcher=s critical needs, it might be good to have staff see what kind of approach could be taken with the Town of Fletcher, MSD, and the County to serve this area. It was suggested that we might meet jointly with Fletcher and (?) MSD after staff has put something together, to see what we can come up with for the north end of the county.
Renee Kumor: Are you proposing that in addition to looking at creating a real authority with Fletcher having representation on the MSD Board? Fletcher might feel more comfortable if they were partners in the decision making.
Grady Hawkins: Use interlocal agreement or contract it so that everyone concerned has input. Suggested charging staff with exploring some of those parameters.
Bill Moyer: First the two Boards should meet to see what direction Fletcher wants to go to. Are they wanting to go to an authority?
David Nicholson: We have received letters from Fletcher asking to sit down and have discussions.
Bill Moyer: Concerned with spending too much staff time before knowing direction to go.
Marilyn Gordon: Authorize Grady and Bob Parrish to work up an agenda to discuss the pros/cons of each approach and how we can come together.
Grady Hawkins: He would be glad to take Gary Tweed with him.
Gary Tweed: Buncombe County is involved too. MSD looking at extending lines into Cane Creek. Part of Buncombe County drains into CCWSD.
David Nicholson: This brings up discussion of swapping Bent Creek site for another one.
Grady Hawkins: If that is Board=s consensus, he will take this approach on the north end of the county.
For the south end, should make initial response to Mayor Niehoff. Not ready to sell the system but interested in some discussions on working together. May result in new agreement to handle issues raised regarding extensions, guarantees of service, binding agreements for future boards.
Renee Kumor: Looking for their financial commitment to serve the needs. Previously only dealing with crisis. Should city residents fund this? Protecting people in unincorporated areas will be biggest impediment.
Marilyn Gordon: Also need to address fee schedule. Our rates are higher. We need to bring rates into discussion as to whether we keep this district or not.
Grady Hawkins: All of these things should be in the interlocal agreement.
Renee Kumor: Need to see a timetable on how areas will be served by the city if we redraw the district.
Grady Hawkins: Must first get to table with the City of Hendersonville to get them to buy into the outline that Bill Lapsley presented.
Marilyn Gordon: Bothered by whether Flat Rock system ties into the county or the city line? Will Flat Rock tie into our system or run parallel?
Bill Moyer: He and Grady had been authorized to go speak to Flat Rock to open discussion regarding rates, etc. Flat Rock is happy with their plan to go with the City of Hendersonville.
Don Ward: If Flat Rock=s plan is costing everyone money, Flat Rock, Hendersonville, County (in lost revenue), give Flat Rock a voice in an interlocal agreement.
Don & Renee: Differed about where lines should be drawn.
Don Ward: Make the district so that it will be affordable.
Grady Hawkins: Should the Board of Commissioners make a counter offer for a new interlocal agreement that would address the issues raised today.
Renee Kumor: For long term plans and how they would serve the district and acknowledgment of what the district really is.
Bill Moyer: We need a counter proposal which would form some type of entity which would be backed up and reinforced by the interlocal agreement.
Grady Hawkins: What would you want in the counter offer?
Renee Kumor: Description of District
Long range plans for serving district
Rates being equalized
Bill Moyer: Focus on the entity, not on issues.
David Nicholson: Now would be the time to address the City of Hendersonville. They have a big issue to deal with - the funding of a new sewer treatment plant.
Grady Hawkins: Lets work with staff to formulate a response to the letter from Mayor Niehoff, based on today=s discussions.
Bill Moyer: Must be supported by an interlocal agreement so that it can=t be terminated on a whim.
Renee Kumor: Agreed. We=ve been there.
Don Ward: Just pick up the phone and call the Mayor or go address their City Council.
Marilyn Gordon: We have to remember there is a City Council, maybe we need to talk to the City Council.
Bill Moyer: The LGCCA has been debating this for 5-6 months. The Mayor has now put his latest proposal on the table. We=ve been told if we didn=t like it to come back with another response. I think Chairman Hawkins should respond.
Grady Hawkins: We=ll work on it. He adjourned the meeting at 7:03 p.m.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk Grady Hawkins, Chairman