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City, county near water sales agreement

ELIZABETH HEFFNER
Staff Writer

Lincolnton City Council members are expected to receive an update from City Manager Jeff Emory regarding water sales negotiations with Lincoln County at a meeting on Thursday.
The water negotiations had previously been packaged with contracts for 911 communications and animal control services at the county’s insistence, but are now being considered separately.
Last month, County Commissioners proposed purchasing water at a rate of $1.15 per 1,000 gallons of water during a term of 10 years, with a rolling five-year notice. The minimum purchase amount would be 0.3 million gallons per day, with a maximum purchase amount of 2.5 million gallons per day.
Negotiations regarding water sales have been rather contentious over the past year and a half. City Council members spoke in depth about the negotiations with the county during their May meeting.
“The first agreement that was presented to the City Council (was voted down) and the city attorney actually drew up another set of contracts that were adopted and mailed back to the county,” Emory said during the council’s May meeting. “The mayor then had some conversations with the county chair, (Alex) Patton. Our committee met again a few months ago to get the negotiations moving again…then, just recently, the county came back and made a counter-proposal. Basically, where we are right now…we had agreed to everything on the first copy that the city prepared, and we were recommending that we go to a contract at either 10 years at $1.15, 15 years at $1.20, or 20 years at $1.25 per 1,000 gallons.”
According to Emory, the county then came back and proposed a 10-year agreement at $1.05, 10 cents less than what the city had proposed. County commissioners also said they wanted a share of the sewer revenue off of the sewer profits the city receives from the Lincoln County Industrial Park and the Timken line. Emory said that he shared with County Manager Tracy Jackson that the city would not be interested in such an agreement, as the city could lose money.
At that time, the county had also recommended a new tier with 911 services and animal control.
“Their recommendation was that for the first five years, they would charge us $75,000,” Emory said. “The next five (years), they’d charge us $150,000, and when we got to year 24-29, (they would charge us) $300,000, and from years 29-34, $425,000. After discussing it with the mayor, I told the county manager that at this time, we would not agree on a term longer than 10 years, and that we would like to negotiate on a 10-year term.”
Board of Commissioners chairman Alex Patton is among those eager to learn the city’s thoughts on this latest proposed water agreement.
“After investing well over a year, probably two years from the actual start of (negotiations), we ended up with no agreement,” Patton said. “We have had both staffs meet on numerous occasions. The Mayor, myself and both managers met on occasion, thinking we had a deal only for the City Council to vote it down. We formed a committee of two commissioners and a member of the City Council to work through this with no agreement.
“They have asked on more than one occasion to just talk about water,” he said. “So, we have decided to show good faith and address the water separately from the rest of the agreements.”
While the county has separated water sales into a standalone agreement, Patton said the commissioners still plan to pursue contracts regarding the 911 Center and Animal Control Services.
“Let me remind you that the city started paying $50,000 in the 1970s under Democratic leadership on both boards,” he said. “They realized then, the need to contribute to the 911 Center. If it had only kept up with inflation, where would that be today? And, that is not including the new laws that require vastly more expensive equipment and resources than it did it the 70s. They pay $500 a month for Animal Control Services from Lincoln County. There should have been something the original agreement that kept pace…but that debate, however, is for another day.”
The Citizens for Smart Spending are also scheduled to come before City Council. The organization plans to request an endorsement from the City of Lincolnton that Lincoln County Offices remain downtown. Others scheduled to speak in support of the endorsement are Johnny Lineberger, Citizens for Smart Spending; David Boyles, Chamber of Commerce; Brooke Sherrill, Downtown Development Association; Jacob Rhodes, Fausto Coffee, and Osama Yousef, Court Street Grille.
Other agenda items include:
Consideration of awarding a contract for Installment Financing of 10 fully equipped police vehicles for a four-year term, not to exceed $350,000.
Update on the BOD Study results. Don Garbrick from Pease and Associates will be presenting.
Consideration of renewal of contract for lease of property at 530 East Main Street for LPD Detectives Division. The contract total is $12,600 annually for a one-year period. Chief of Police Rodney Jordan will be giving the presentation.
Presentation to Gaston College in honor and recognition of its 50 years of service to Lincoln and Gaston counties.
Lincolnton’s City Council will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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