Members of the Big Canoe Property Owners Association and water task force came before the Dawson County Board of Commissioners last week to present a draft of enabling legislation that would allow the POA to create a public water and sewer authority.
Phil Anderson, president of the Big Canoe Property Owners Association, asked the commission if it would endorse the legislation to establish the Big Canoe Water and Sewer Authority.
He explained that Big Canoe Utilities, the private water and sewer entity that services Big Canoe, gave notice to the POA in March of the intent to sell their company.
“The problem with the water and sewer system in Big Canoe is that the distribution system is old, it's aging and it needs major capital improvements,” Anderson said. “The pump stations, the tanks, the leaking lines...we need a cost effective way in which to make those improvements.”
According to Anderson, if Big Canoe Utilities were to sell its assets to a private entity, the cost of the capital improvements would fall on the Big Canoe property owners, which would be very costly.
“If we can acquire the assets, if Big Canoe Water and Sewer Authority, once it's established, can acquire the assets, then that water and sewer authority would be eligible for grants and low interest loans and be able to issue tax-free revenue bonds to, in a much more cost effective way, finance those capital improvements,” Anderson said.
District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett asked Anderson to clarify if quality and quantity of the water was part of the issue.
Fausett’s district includes the Dawson County portion of Big Canoe.
“The raw water that we draw is very high quality and there is a state-of-the-art water treatment plant there,” Anderson said. “There is sufficient water coming out of Blackwell Creek to meet our anticipated needs, so quantity and quality is not the problem, it's the aging distribution system that’s a serious problem.”
Anderson said he had previously taken the draft legislation to the Pickens County Board of Commissioners to ask for its endorsement as well.
“The response we received from Pickens County has been favorable and they intend to favorably endorse the legislation to (State Representative) Rick Jasperse, who represents Pickens County,” he said.
He asked that the commission favorably endorse the legislation to House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, with the intent to have Ralston and Jasperse co-sponsor the act in the upcoming 2018 legislative session.
The draft of the act includes the names of five initial members of the authority: Grant Grimes, Martha Power, Gary Cherry, David Howe and Hollis Lathem. Their terms would be staggered, with some ending in April of 2020, some in 2021 and some in 2022.
After that, each term would be four years and members would be elected by the users of the water and sewer system.
“This is a methodology that they came up with that would stabilize their water and sewer and provide them stability that they do need,” said BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines asked if the POA would be asking for any financial assistance from the BOC at any point, to which Anderson replied they would not.
Brooke Anderson, general manager of the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, said the authority is supportive of the POA’s efforts and are not concerned with any territorial changes, as the legislation is intended only for the Big Canoe development.
“We believe this is the best solution for the residences of Big Canoe,” he said.
The board is expected to vote on the issue during Thursday’s voting session.