Monthly customer costs unknown without policies
The Vance County Water District Board has approved a contract with a North Carolina firm to operate and maintain the county’s new water system.
County commissioners, sitting as the Water District Board, voted 4-3 Monday night for the pact with Envirolink, Inc. The approval was by the thinnest margin and followed a discussion about information expected before a vote was taken.
Commissioners Tommy Hester, Deborah Brown, Eddie Wright and Archie Taylor voted approval.
The firm’s responsibilities will range from testing to reading meters, emergency response to system maintenance, customer service to billing and collection.
Some commissioners, though, had expected an estimate of monthly customer costs before a vote on the five-year agreement.
According to Commissioner Dan Brummitt, the county’s engineer and Envirolink agreed to provide the estimate following a meeting last month of the board’s Planning and Environmental Committee.
“I hate to sign a contract in the dark,” Brummitt said.
Commissioner Terry Garrison agreed, saying he would like some range of costs.
According to Envirolink’s president, Michael Myers, a wide range of variables ranging from deposits to capital improvement to depreciation will determine a monthly customer rate. Myers said the board has not set policies for those issues.
Jonathan Care, the county attorney, said policy decisions needed to be made before rates could be set.
Taylor refocused the discussion to the contract with Envirolink. And Commissioner Gordon Wilder asked if the board was “under the gun” to vote.
Care reminded the board that Envirolink has already assisted the county at no cost, and he is hesitant to continue asking the firm for help without a contract.
Brummitt, Garrison and Wilder opposed approval of the contract.
Along with the approval, the board agreed that the committee would meet to deal with policies. The board also expects a report from the engineer and Envirolink within a week.
In other water district matters, the board approved change orders for an additional $270,935 for seeding and erosion control due to new state mandates. The funds will be reallocated from other areas of the water project where savings have been realized. The board also approved a change order for a decrease of $11,631 in costs related to a water tank.
In their meeting Monday night, the board of commissioners asked County Manager Jerry Ayscue to arrange a meeting with county and Henderson law enforcement officials, judges, the district attorney and others who can help stem violence like the murders, assaults and abductions that have occurred recently.
Garrison said criminals come into neighborhoods and “exploit” people who have lost hope.
“The public deserves, warrants and needs” an “intelligent discussion” about violence, which, he said, gives the county a negative image. More law enforcement is needed in “trouble areas,” he said.
More funding is needed for law enforcement or for a consultant to help with strategy, Brown said.
Wright, a former Washington, D.C., police officer, said police should build relationships with people.
“People need to know law enforcement is on their side,” Wright said.
In other business, the commissioners:
• Denied an appeal from Duke LifePointe Maria Parham Medical Center to lower the assessed value of its personal property. The Vance County Tax Office valued the personal property at $21.3 million. The hospital believes the value should be $12.3 million. Care reported that the hospital has not provided information to support its claim and recommended denial of the appeal.
• Accepted from Optima DNA Research Inc. a bid of $1,000 for a lot at the Interstate 85-N.C. 39 intersection. The county acquired the lot in a tax foreclosure. When the property did not sell at auction, bids for it were advertised.
• Authorized the county manager to apply for a special use permit from the city for an animal shelter on Brodie Road. The property lies in an extra territorial jurisdiction and city approval is required. Ayscue was authorized to spend up to $3,500 for the process.
• Declared a plumbing contractor in default on a house under construction on Stagecoach Road and awarded completion of work to another contractor. Mel’s Electric and Plumbing was declared in default for not completing work on the house funded through a Community Development Block Grant. The default resulted in an additional cost of $19,350. Clement Construction will complete the work for $58,100. The county will seek damages from the original contractor, Care said.
• Recognized with its Community Hero Award the Northern Vance High School engineering team. The team won the Prize for Innovation from N.C. State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues. The team of Justin Care, Ray Cheever, Dylan Grissom, Nick Sharpe and Amber Stevenson entered its Sirocco Innovative Computer Cleaner, a device designed to dislodge and remove dust interfering with a computer’s critical functioning parts. The NVHS students received more than 6,000 of the 12,000-plus online votes for entries in the competition, as well as $5,000 to use toward the development of its Sirocco creation.
• Adopted a resolution recognizing April 13-27 as dates for Spring Litter Sweep in Vance County.
• Changed the date of its next regular meeting from April 1 to April 8 because of the Easter holiday.
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