Part 2 - Boone: Candidates on the issues
by Anna Oakes
The Watauga Democrat asked each candidate to provide responses to a series of questions for publication.
Today's issue includes the responses to the third and fourth questions posed to the candidates.The Oct. 11 issue featured biographical information about each candidate, as well as their responses to the first two questions.
The remaining two responses will be published in the Oct. 16 issue and online at http://www.wataugademocrat.com.
Responses have been edited for punctuation, spelling and space requirements.
In the coming weeks, the Watauga Democrat will also publish candidate responses related to the Blowing Rock, Seven Devils and Beech Mountain municipal elections.
3. I organized in support of the 2008 referendum where 73 percent of town residents agreed with the need for this new water source, and I still believe we need it. The proposed intake is designed to the most advanced technical standards and will provide new environmental protections for the historic New River due to Boone's successful reclassification to a WS-IV protected watershed. Further, engineers for the project confirm there will be no measurably significant impact on the original water levels. The recent discussions among our legislative delegation about a state-mandated regional system are of concern, as such a regional authority would manage and operate a system paid for by Boone taxpayers.
4. I am 100 percent opposed to the state of North Carolina creating a regional water authority using an existing system that was financed and operated by Boone taxpayers. Further, I oppose such a regional authority being created after the town commits funding to the new water intake project. Last year in Asheville, the state made the same move and gave Asheville residents too little representation on the regionalized board. I have been open for years to a commitment from Watauga County to extend water along U.S. 421 toward Deep Gap, subject to a partnership on the pipe extension costs and a growth plan for the area.
3. The conversation for the new water intake project began seven years ago. From the beginning of this project there have been more questions than answers, more resistance than support and more problems than solutions. While I do agree Boone must find a way to meet the town's projected water needs for the present and the future, I do not support this project. A substantial portion of the project is to be paid for by government loans originally estimated to total $25 million, and the estimate has only grown in amount. I am not willing to impose such a sizeable debt onto the taxpayers Boone when the specifics of such a proposal have not been shared.
4. When it comes to the government's delegation of resources, I tend to favor a more conservative approach. I believe the direct local level of government is able to best identify and fulfill the needs of its respective jurisdiction. A regional authority would weaken the ability of the counties and municipalities when allocating their water resources for criteria like development. The citizens of Boone should have a local relationship with the decision-makers for their environment.
3. No. Ashe County doesn't want it. It would pollute the water, which has industries that require it. Farmers, trout fishing, canoeing and saving Mother Earth.
4. If we can make it work, but I'm also open to other options.
3. I do support this effort and am perplexed as to why we are still talking about it after being worked on for almost 10 years. We do need a new water source if we are to promote growth, create jobs and new neighborhoods. At the same time, our water conservation efforts need a more aggressive stance.
4. Whether the town builds it or it is done by a regional water authority, the end user, the customer, will be paying the bills. This is why I think we need to implement more aggressive water conservation systems in all new developments and buildings, whether commercial or residential.
FOR TOWN COUNCIL
3. I support Boone's water expansion project because the town of Boone is running out of water. The town will not be able to meet even the current requests for water, much less future requests if it does not increase the availability of treated water. As engineering studies have shown, this intake will not damage the environment or make significant changes in the flow of the New River.
4. A regional water system will not meet the needs of either Boone or surrounding areas. Intractable hurdles would face such a plan. For example, a regional water system would in all probability not compensate the citizens of Boone for the millions of dollars invested in the current system, something that might trigger years of litigation. In addition, it would face almost insurmountable state and federal regulatory obstacles. And it would not be able to generate any more water capacity than the current proposed system. Costs of building an expanded regional system would run into many millions of dollars, something most surrounding jurisdictions may not be able to afford or sell to their constituents.
3. I support the water intake for several reasons but also understand the drawbacks. Environmentally we are already at the limit of our current water intake, and if anyone remembers the droughts several years ago, we know it is a very real limit that we will find again. Our options are to cease building and implement very strict water usage controls or build the new intake. We cannot keep damaging our rivers, and for that reason alone I support the intake just like I did when we the people voted for it several years ago. However, this literally "leaves the floodgates open" for the continued rampant development in Boone as "lack of water" will no longer be a hamper to developers set on making a quick buck instead of investing in Boone's long-term community.
4. There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of system. We may not have a choice in the regional water authority decision coming from the state. What this would do would be to take the people who paid for the system out of deciding who gets the water and where it goes. It is supposed to make the system more efficient for the region, which I agree with, but it also could open up water to political motivation and be a contributor to urban sprawl.
Matthew C. Long
3. See answer below.
4. I have a hard time fully commenting on this topic. I have been trying to educate myself on exactly what has been done to date with the intake project and what still is necessary. From the discussions I have had with interested parties, I am concerned that the town's leaders have not exercised proper due diligence within their current business dealings and expenditures relating to this project. I am told we are close to $2 million in land acquisition and engineering studies and there are not proper easements in place to allow for distribution from the intake to Boone. It seems if there were ever plans to explore a regional plan or system, it would have made sense to me to explore those options prior to our current $2 million investment. I personally believe that there have not been full efforts made to retrofit and offer incentives for water saving fixtures within our town. Such successful efforts would prolong the need for such a capital investment.
3. I support the fact that the town of Boone should finish what it has started. While the intake could or could not be located at the proposed location, the town does need to secure a new source of water. Water is key for all development and redevelopment. Until a final decision is made we should be good stewards of the water we do have and find ways to conserve and address how we allocate water requests.
4. Until we have enough information on this issue it is difficult to support or oppose this. If this were to develop I would look forward to working with all appropriate parties and community leaders.
3. The increased need for water is a critical issue. As a candidate, I do not have access to all the information related to the proposed raw intake plan. I would support such a plan only if I felt it was in the best interest of the people of Boone. I am 100 percent opposed to any plan that would allow regionalization of this intake. If the people of Boone have to pay for such an undertaking, we cannot allow outside groups to take control of the intake.
4. If the new water intake system is paid for by the people of Boone, I am absolutely opposed to allowing regional or state interests to control it. What happened in Asheville is evidence of this possibility, and I do not want to see the same thing happen to Boone.
3. I am still in the process of learning as much information as I can on the project. Quite frankly, what I have discovered has been disappointing from an openness and transparency standpoint. Very little information has been made public, and far too many meetings have been conducted in closed session. The entire project has been based on a 2004 study that has long since proven to be inaccurate. Additionally, the information in the Environmental Assessment and other town presentations touts a future need of 7.0 MGD, which is at odds with the information supplied by the town in its Local Water Supply Plans. While there is definitely a future, long-term water need by the town, there should be cause for concern when moving forward with any project this costly to the taxpayer. Going forward I would like to see more consideration given to the people of Todd and other communities and would like to include these neighbors in the discussion.
4. I support any water plan reached by consensus so long as it is openly discussed and completely transparent to the voting public and neighboring communities.