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City buys Laurel Park water system for $1, pledges $1M in improvements

Noting that Laurel Park provided water to Hendersonville in the 1880s, Mayor Carey O'Cain endorsed an agreement that resulted in a merger of the Laurel Park and Hendersonville water systems on Friday.

"Laurel Park was originally furnishing water to the city of Hendersonville back in the 1880s from our natural springs so we've always had a cordial and cooperative and respectful relationship with the city of Hendersonville," he said. "I know this is going to be good for our residents not just now but for the future. You will be able to help us solve the pressure issue at the Fleetwood zone."

The purchase price of the water lines, tanks and other property that is part of the water system was $1, with a commitment by the city to invest $1 million in improvements to increase water pressure in the Hebron and Fleetwood areas.

In a joint meeting on Friday, the Laurel Park Town Council and the Hendersonville voted unanimously to approve the merger.  City committed to spend at least $1 million on water system improvements in Laurel Park, which has been buying water from Hendersonville wholesale and operated water lines to serve the town's households and businesses.

The agreement came in 22 minutes after a presentation of the agreement by Hendersonville's city attorney, Angela Beeker, and comments  by council members praising the work of a joint committee and the managers of both municipalities. The committee was made up of Hendersonville council members Jeff Miller and Jennifer Hensley and Laurel Park commissioners George Banta and Paul Hansen.

“The Laurel Park and Hendersonville Councils have been working towards this agreement which creates immediate cost savings to be passed along to our residents, improvements to the water systems beginning this calendar year, and long-term financial sustainability,” O’Cain said in a statement. “Each of our governments see this as a great partnership and one which will benefit the citizens of our region immediately and into the future.” 

The city of Hendersonville said benefits of merging the two water systems include: 

  • Cost saving for Laurel Park residents due to lower Hendersonville water system rates. 
  • Upgrade to automatic meter reading for Laurel Park customers.
  • Access to AquaHawk alerting and water leak detection for Laurel Park customers.
  • Immediate investment in the system’s infrastructure to improve pressure and fire flow.
  • More than $1 million in improvements to the Laurel Park section of the system within the first 24 months of the transfer.
  • Increased and more reliable water pressure to the Hebron pressure zone. 

“This merger is a shining example of government working to achieve solutions that best serve our community,” said Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk. “I take great pride in both our Councils and staff who have been innovative with their solutions and cooperative in their decision making. This collaboration improves the utility system for, not only residents of Hendersonville but our neighbors and customers outside our city limits.”   

The physical merger of the two systems is expected to begin in Spring of 2021. The city water system, which serves 30,000 customers, will add 845 users in Laurel Park.

Laurel Park Town Manager Christopher Todd said town public works employees currently work on the water system as needed and a part of their salary comes from water system revenue. "Currently, we are expecting to retain all our employees," he said. "The town of Laurel Park is going to be doing our best to assist the city throughout this transition."

The Fleetwood zone that experiences low water pressure is the area around the condominium development at the top of Laurel Park. The Hebron zone is a part of the mountain that is mostly outside the city but includes some Laurel Park households. "The merger will provide the city the use of our water infrastructure for some pressure," Todd said.

"We all believe this is a truly a beneficial relationship and we're excited for all the next steps and working together in the future," he added.

Water system assets that go from Laurel Park to the city date from the 1920s or earlier, including a water tank in the Fleetwood area that was built in 1927. Assets include:

  • 22 miles of water lines, including 4.5 miles of 2-inch lines, 13.5 miles of 6-inch line and 3.2 miles of 8-inch lines.
  • Six pump stations.
  • Eight water tanks, ranging in age from 14 to 91 years and in elevation from 2,480 to 3,120 feet.