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Getting down to business

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It wasn’t long after three new council members had been sworn into office that they sat down to tackle a rather lengthy agenda.

Newcomers Rhonda Poppen, Jeffrey Redfern and Bob Scaggs filled the seats of outgoing council members Tom Huntley, Aaron Pherigo and Jack Roden Monday night. Bill Williams, the lone incumbent to seek re-election, was also sworn in. 

By Jonathan E. Coleman
[email protected]
It wasn’t long after three new council members had been sworn into office that they sat down to tackle a rather lengthy agenda.

Newcomers Rhonda Poppen, Jeffrey Redfern and Bob Scaggs filled the seats of outgoing council members Tom Huntley, Aaron Pherigo and Jack Roden Monday night. Bill Williams, the lone incumbent to seek re-election, was also sworn in. 

After a brief photo op with mayor Tim Hagler,  the new council got right to work.

But the topic that drew the most discussion wasn’t one that was on the agenda.

During his regular report to the council, Town Administrator Carl Parmer shared a change in how the town is being billed for water purchased from Concord.

Since Concord entered into an Interbasin Water Transfer agreement in order to draw water from the Catawba River basin earlier this year, the city has begun taking a closer look at its water resources and where water is being distributed.

Since Harrisburg purchases water from Concord, Harrisburg’s water usage has come under scrutiny. 

In the past, Harrisburg reported to Concord how much water was billed to customers based on reading meters of water customers. The town was charged according to those figures.  Since July, however, Concord has used its own water meters — one each at N.C. 49 north of town, near the speedway and on Roberta Road — to gauge the amount of water being provided to Harrisburg. The Interbasin Water Transfer requires 100 percent metering of all water leaving Concord.

A comparison of the numbers being reported by Concord and the amount of water being billed by Harrisburg show a significant amount of water being lost somewhere in the system, Parmer told the board.

Between Aug. 16 and Sept. 15, Concord reported providing Harrisburg more than 49 million gallons of water. During that same time period, Harrisburg only billed customers for slightly more than 36 million gallons.

A small portion of the missing water can likely be attributed to water coming from town fire hydrants for use by the fire department or contracted groups granted special permission to use water from the hydrants. Since that water doesn’t flow through town meters, it is not accounted for in the town’s water meter readings. That amount, however, would be far short of the difference between Concord and Harrisburg’s numbers.

Where the extra water is going is something of a mystery, Parmer said, and one that could cost the town thousands of dollars.

“The dollar affect to us is $25,000 to $30,000 difference in water that we’re buying and not selling,” he said. “It’s a very alarming number.”

Parmer told the board the town is planning to test the meters used by Concord, and if it is determined that those are in working order, engineers will begin working to determine whether there might be a leak in the system where water is escaping.

Councilman Phil Cowherd said this issue should be a major priority for the town, especially during a time of drought when water is particularly scarce.

“We’re telling the public we’re losing some three million gallons a week? I would say this is a high priority,” he said.

Parmer also informed the board of a new billing approach that Concord wants Harrisburg to consider.

Instead of paying for whatever amount of water Harrisburg uses, Parmer said Concord officials want to establish a set amount of water to be provided to Harrisburg and charge a premium rate for any level over that amount that Harrisburg uses in a given cycle.

Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt said Concord has capped its contribution to Harrisburg’s water supply at 750,000 gallons per day for about five years, and that the new contract scheme wouldn’t be much different. The new metering system, he said, was put in place to ensure that Concord is being compensated for all the water it provides to Harrisburg, and not just the water that runs through Harrisburg’s meters.

“The end result, assuming the disappearing water can be resolved, if we can anticipate the right amount of water flow every month, we will actually see savings in the cost of water we buy,” Parmer said.

But council members, including Steve Sciascia, wanted to delay any contract until the water discrepancies can be resolved.

Sciascia said it would be difficult to gauge how much water the town would want to purchase under the new contract without having a better idea of how much water the town is actually consuming and how much might be being lost.

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.


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