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City defends its openness on water extensions

Henderson County Commission Chairman Grady Hawkins was taken aback when he read that the city had acquired a subdivision’s water system on Pinnacle Mountain and added a new 14,800-foot water main to Etowah.

Based on a 1997 agreement, the city of Hendersonville is required to notify Henderson County to water line extensions.
“Are we still in agreement in the February 1997 or it’s been unilaterally discarded or what?” Hawkins asked during a meeting of the Local Government Committee for Cooperative Action. Hawkins thought the city had purchased the water system of the Pinnacle Falls development.
The LGCCA is attended by the mayors of the county’s municipalities, one or two county commissioners and usually the city managers and the county manager, so City Manager John Connet was available to respond.
“It actually wasn’t a sale,” Connet said. “The property owner of Pinnacle Falls came to the city. The system was already there” with a master meter. “The property owner approached the city, pretty aggressively as I recall, asking for us to take over maintenance of their system that was already there. It was not an extension. It was a system that was already approved years ago by the county, permitted. We did not buy it. It was given to the city.”
“I’m glad you cleared that up,” Hawkins responded before going on to ask for the city’s input on a new comprehensive plan the county is drafting.
“As the county progresses on its 2045 planning I think it’s imperative that we the county and the city keep close communications on that planning aspect of it inasmuch as water and sewer as we all know is one of the big determinants on density and density drives traffic and traffic drives everything else. So hopefully we can keep our communications going on the rest of those type projects and come up with a better comprehensive land-use plan that we continue to work on.”

‘Collaborative effort with city and county’


Pinnacle Falls developer A.J. Ball confirmed details of the 2008 project.
“We did that as a collaborative effort with Kenmure, the city, the county,” he said. “I put together a project that enhances the fire flow and water pressure at the top of the development and put in a storage tank that feeds back to them and also feeds into Pinnacle Falls. We bore the expense for all the extension of the line.”
The plan could not have happened, Ball said, without approval from the county commissioners.
“They were aware that we were going to extend their line. We actually put fire hydrants in Pinnacle Falls but the county had to approve it because it wasn’t part of the jurisdiction of the city of Hendersonville,” Ball said. “We went to a county commissioners meeting and there was a lot of discussion with Mr. (Chuck) McGrady,” then a county commissioner.
Weary of the regulations and paperwork that running a water system requires, even a small private one, the Pinnacle Falls Property Owners Association appealed to the city to take it over.
“We attempted a couple of times and finally they were open to it and we were able to do it,” Ball said. “We approached them and said, ‘There’s an opportunity here. We want to get out of the water business. It’s your product we’re purchasing, why not take the system? … We paid for half of the change in (metering) equipment in an agreement between the property owners association and the city.”
The city had declined the Pinnacle Falls offer previously because some of the lines are PVC. But Utilities Director Lee Smith told the City Council in August that engineers had signed off on the takeover after numerous inspections.
“All the main lines are ductile iron,” Ball said. The PVC “is not the thin wall plastic like you’d get at Lowe’s. It’s commercial grade PVC. It’s a very durable product.”
After the council OK’d the agreement, the city changed out the meters — with Pinnacle Falls paying half — and took over maintenance and billing.
“We are very satisfied,” Ball said. “It was a very effective changeover. Lee and his guys did a great job. They came out and the crews worked quickly. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Begun just before the 2008 recession, the development has room to grow, with 130 lots and just 28 homes so far.
Besides serving Pinnacle Falls, the 160,000-gallon water tank supplies the Kenmure development on either side of Pinnacle Mountain Road, which follows the hilltop ridge. Kenmure homeowners “were struggling to do something,” Ball said. “There was low water pressure and low fire hose pressure. It was a good project and everybody bought in and I think everybody was extremely satisfied with the way it went. We’re happy with what’s transpired and we appreciate that the city was receptive to our request and we’re moving forward.”

County is in the loop

Hawkins also questioned the Etowah waterline. That one did not expand the city’s customer base either. The city OK’d a contract for $6.57 million for Cooper Construction to run the line, build a pumping station and replace an old water tank with a new 500,000-gallon ground level tank.
“That’s replacing an existing water line and moving a water tank to a higher elevation,” Connet said. It’s possible the city could gain a few users, though “it’s a very small area where that new line would be run. We’ve been working on this project for 10 years.”
At a Board of Commissioners meeting the day after the LGCCA meeting, Commissioner Bill Lapsley suggested an additional procedure for ensuring that the elected officials know about all proposed city water extensions, no matter the size.
“Unless it’s some large development we as a board don’t need to micromanage everything that’s going on but I do think by the 1997 agreement this board wants to be aware of any extension,” he said. “So I would ask that if the (county) Planning Department gets a notice, that it be put on the consent agenda and if it’s a significant project any of us can ask that it be pulled from a consent item and we can discuss it. As we’ve discussed, what goes on outside the corporate limits of all the municipalities is of interest to this board.”
The City Council on Thursday night approved requests by developers for city water service:
• Haywood Crossing, 20 single-family homes on N.C. 191, which the county approved on June 21.
• Rugby Ridge, 26 single-family homes on North Rugby Road, approved Jan. 15.
• Etowah Town Homes, nine units on Brickyard, approved June 26.
Whether it’s a major project like the Etowah water main or a minor subdivision, the county is in the loop, Smith said.
“They give us all the permits and also we’ve talked about it at every advisory council meeting,” he said. In 2017, the city and county resurrected the 11-member Henderson County Water and Sewer Advisory Council made of representatives of the county, the city of Hendersonville, other municipalities and water customers.
“We kind of go through our capital plan (every meeting), so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody,” Smith said. “They know about our CIP (capital improvement plan). It’s on line. Bill Lapsley is there for the advisory council, he’s going to be chairman.”
Although not all subdivisions require review by the county Planning Board and Board of Commissioners, developers in their applications must tell how water and sewer service will be provided.
“We don’t send it to our city council until we know the county has approved that subdivision,” Smith said. “Their planning folks have approved all of those.”