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County endorses utility line grant for joint venture

FLETCHER — The Mission-Pardee health campus is in line for a funding boost to pay half the cost of running a sewer line to the joint project.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners, which also serves as the governing board of the Cane Creek Water and Sewer District, endorsed a $275,000 grant application Monday over the objections of Vice Chairman Bill O'Connor, who accused the board of contributing to the national debt and called federal grants "our form of cocaine."
The developer building the health care campus for Pardee and Mission hospitals will apply for a grant that will fund half the cost of the $550,000 sewer line project. The 2,190-foot 8-inch line will run from the health campus on the county line along U.S. 25 to Hillcrest Road and Old Airport Road and connect to the Cane Creek sewer system at Jones Road in Fletcher.
In order to qualify for an NC Rural Center economic infrastructure grant the project must create private sector jobs and have a local government sponsor.
"Because you will be accepting the wastewater flow, it seems logical that Cane Creek Sewer District participate in the project as the government sponsor," Eric Larson, of the Keith Corporation, the project developer, said in a letter to county engineer Marcus Jones. "This project will be mutually beneficial because it will bring health care services to the area, and it will create jobs for local residents."
The hospitals had to commit to providing at least 28 jobs to be eligible for the grant. The local match of $13,750 — 5 percent of the grant — would be provided by the Mission Pardee partnership and paid through Cane Creek. There is no cost to the Cane Creek utility district, Larson said.
Commissioner O'Connor frequently lectures his colleagues about their complicity in the rising national debt when they vote to accept federal grants, and the sewer line grant set him off again.
"It's a bad deal, it's a bad idea," he said. "Dealing with these grants and subsidies is our form of cocaine."