County looks at water tower

Commissioners approve site study, tell town to pick one

by Brian Carlton

Before moving forward with a water tower, county commissioners want to make sure the town of Weddington will approve a site.

During its Monday, Feb. 20 meeting, the commission voted 3 to 2, with Todd Johnson and Jonathan Thomas in opposition, to authorize a new site study by Public Works. The study will determine criteria for selecting a site, then examine up to five options for the county to choose from.

“Ultimately Weddington needs to show that they’re interested in a water tower there,” Johnson said. “As citizens are concerned about pressures, as fire departments are concerned, sure we want to hear their voice, but at the same time they should express those concerns to the town of Weddington, to the mayor, to the town council members. We need to make sure Weddington understands that they are the driving force (if the tower gets built).”

A proposed site for the water tower was rejected by the Weddington town council in November after more than a year of discussions between the town and county. The water tower was scheduled to be built at 247 Providence Road South, part of a 9 acre lot. Public Works officials wanted to use the 1.5 million gallon tower to improve static pressure and fire flow in the western portion of Union County during peak demand. Residents complained that it would be an eyesore and not safe for their kids to be around. Instead, they asked for the county to build a ground level water tank, which county commissioners said the town would need to pay for. The town refused and ended up denying the county a permit for the site.

The lack of communication, Thomas said, is why he voted against the study.

“I spoke with many folks down there and told them the last thing we’re gonna do is rush in and tell em where we’re gonna put this thing,” Thomas said. “I really wanted to have something come back from Weddington.”

The problem, county commissioner Tracy Kuehler said, was that last fall nobody asked Weddington which of the sites would be acceptable, they just picked a site and told the town to accept it. The new site study was on the consent agenda for Monday’s meeting, but Kuehler put it on the regular agenda instead so commissioners could make changes, if necessary.

“I wanted to make sure moving forward, Weddington is fully engaged, (that we explain) what our thought process is, why these sites work or don’t work, so that we’re all on the same page,” Kuehler said. “The last site we went after, Weddington had changed its zoning process to allow for open discussions but the site was picked without benefit of those discussions.”

Only 18 percent of Weddington’s 73 subdivisions have fire hydrants. Additionally, 80 percent of homes use wells instead of county water. Of the town’s subdivisions, 60 of the 73 use only well water. According to the Jan. 2012 report from Providence fire department, more than half of the hydrants in Weddington have low water pressure. Johnson acknowledged the need, but said the county couldn’t afford to keep selecting sites, only to be rejected during the permitting process in Weddington.

“How much more money are we gonna keep putting into it?” Johnson asked. He asked Public Works director Ed Goscicki if the county had received any vote or endorsement of a site from Weddington. Goscicki replied that they only received one email from the town’s planning department, highlighting site options in the town’s commercial district.

“I’d like to see something a little more formal coming from the town of Weddington,” Johnson said.

Speaking after the meeting with UCW, Weddington mayor Walker Davidson said his town would do their best to work with the county.

There is no timeframe for when Public Works will be finished with the site study.

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