Revised agreement signed between Watauga River water authority board and Elizabethton

John Thompson • Apr 17, 2012 at 8:49 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Just days after the Elizabethton City Council breathed new life into the Watauga River Regional Water Authority, the authority’s board of directors held a called meeting Monday to ratify the agreement and get the other customers on board.

Last Thursday, the City Council voted 4-3 to extend its commitment to buy 300,000 gallons of water per day from the WRRWA. The commitment had originally been for 20 years, but was extended to 30 years to meet the demands of attorneys who are preparing an issuance of bonds to finance the final phase of construction on a 2-million-gallon-per-day water plant at Wilbur Lake.

With the city in agreement, the WRRWA board of directors voted unanimously for the revised agreement Monday. Chairman Johnny Mills then signed the document. Mills called it “a historic day.”

Two of the utility districts that are part of the water authority, South Elizabethton and Siam, will meet this week to consider the amended agreement.

Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander, a financial consultant with Edward Jones Investments, said it should take about 45 days to prepare the $8 million bond issue. Work on the water plant is about 85 percent complete, and projected completion is for this fall. Completion of the final phase of the project, the water intake at Wilbur Lake, is unknown because of poor soil conditions discovered in part of the lake bottom where the intake’s foundation will be located.

Alexander said there were two concerns among council members during the deliberations prior to Thursday’s decision. One was the lengthy extension of the city’s obligations and the second was the changes made at the request of bond counsel in the depreciation schedule of the water plant, particularly the change in the depreciation rate of the water lines from 70 years to 50 years.

The change raised the cost of the water, but Alexander said the city’s costs should go down as the list of depreciated items reach the time limits on the schedule.

The board and its attorney, Tom McKee, expressed appreciation for the work done by the attorney’s on the bond issue, especially Erick Herrin, who provided counsel for the city commission and briefed the body before Thursday’s vote.

“Without Erick’s explanations, I don’t think it would have passed,” Alexander said.

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