Water dispute Alternative?

Published 7:22 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Editor Smithfield Times,

It is discouraging to observe the water dispute between the county and The town of Smithfield. The way this is headed, there will be no winners The sure losers are the town and county taxpayers.

Accepting that we are committed to purchase water we don’t need, it is in everyone’s interest to minimize the problem. There is common interest here and we should find a solution that serves all. Unfortunately, there is little trust between the county and town governments, which makes a good faith negotiation difficult.

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Therefore, I propose the town and county delegate the negotiation to a panel of five. Two appointed by the Town, two by the county and one selected by the appointed panel members. The outline of a deal may look something like this: The county pays the debt on the town’s osmosis water system and pays for the infrastructure needed for the town to use the County water. Considering the county is ready to spend $10 million or more for a water line and related infrastructure, this should be a huge savings. The Town would use the county water. Water customers in the town would pay a water rate equal to 80 percent of what other county water users pay. This is fair because Smithfield users pay less now.

The County is better off with 80 cents on the dollar than nothing. Smithfield would bring about 3,000 customers to the venture. Any communities annexed by Smithfield in the future would pay the full price for water. The new joint water system would be managed by a Water Board appointed by the county and town governments proportional to the amount of water their respective constituencies use.

There are likely more issues than I have considered and flaws in my simplistic plan. That said, I am confident that there is a solution that will better serve the taxpayers other than to continue upping the ante in this water dispute.

John Graham