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Commissioners approve contract package with City of Lincolnton

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

Despite the Lincolnton City Council’s decision last week to head back to the table with various contracts between Lincolnton and Lincoln County officials, the Board of Commissioners went ahead and approved the package deal Monday night.
Commissioner Carl Robinson, who was a part of the negotiations that culminated in the proposed agreements, said the move would show leadership and that the county was committed to what was originally agreed upon.
He noted that the deal was something he considered a “win-win situation” for each side.
“I felt like we had fair agreements,” he said.
Interim County Manager Martha Lide noted that the agreements were intended to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness for both the city and the county.
The bundle deal includes proposals regarding the sale of city water to the county and fire, emergency-dispatch and animal-control services.
It was met with strong opposition by a majority of City Council members due to its all-or-nothing nature, as well as a perceived unfair hike in what the county charges for the services. They said they didn’t believe such concessions should be made just so the city could sell more water.
Mayor John Gilleland has adamantly stressed the need for additional water customers in order to pay off the city’s debt on a 10-million-gallon-capacity water plant that currently operates at 30-percent capacity.
Nonetheless, the council decided to send the agreements back to committee for further talks.
Robinson noted that it would be a mistake not to sit down and get the situation fixed, adding that there was a lot of history on the issues.
“We need to overcome that and get it done,” he stressed.
Commissioner Jim Klein also participated in the previous months-long negotiations, saying he thought the end result was a “very good deal on a number of levels.”
Agreements regarding the items were originally drafted back in the 1970s, Chairman Alex Patton said. At that time, different political parties were in power locally, he said, refuting claims that the deal was strictly politics.
The agreements were then updated in 1997, he said.
Patton additionally noted that the county has been approached in the past by outside cities also looking to sell water but that it was trying to do the right thing by working with its own municipality.
Gilleland was present for Monday night’s discussion, urging county officials to continue negotiations despite his disappointment that the initial agreements have stalled.
The Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport, a point of contention in the past, will meanwhile be taken up separately.

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