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COLUMBUS—On Aug. 10, in what was often a virtual replay of the discussion at its last meeting on July 20, the Polk County Board of Commissioners took additional steps on a proposed long-term transfer of the Polk County water system.

The controversial plan is backed by four of the five commissioners, with one steadfastly opposed. A barrage of citizen complaints at the board’s meetings has done little to slow the proposal, under which the Inman-Campobello Water District in upstate South Carolina would manage Polk’s water system for 75 years.

ICWD already manages the system, which is relatively small, and is currently under contract to continue to do so for the next seven years. Under a proposed new contract, ICWD would take up the long-term management in exchange for being responsible for Lake Adger dam repairs and waterline maintenance in Polk.

MORE: See Carolina Public Press’s recent in-depth report on the proposed water system transfer here.

At the Aug. 10 meeting, the commissioners reviewed a short list of tweaks to the contract, which will now be amended by County Manager Marche Pittman and sent back to ICWD for its consideration.

Key debate points reiterated as contract is amended

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Board of Commissioners Chair Tom Pack has been the main proponent of the long-term water system transfer, while commissioner Ray Gasperson (below), former chair of the board, has been the main opponent. Max Cooper/Carolina Public Press

As the commissioners discussed proposed changes to the contract, the sole board member to oppose the deal, Democrat Ray Gasperson, reiterated his concerns—chiefly that the 75-year period is too lengthy, that the county needs to seek expert advice on the contract and that the board has rushed the process of negotiating with ICWD.

“The broad-based sentiment from the citizens is that this 75-year term isn’t reasonable,” Gasperson said.

“Honestly, it only appears that you four think it is,” he said to his fellow commissioners, all of which are Republicans.

The four remained unpersuaded by Gasperson’s arguments.

Board Chair Tom Pack, in particular, continued to vocally support going through with the proposed 75-year transfer, saying that the contract would bind ICWD to serve all of Polk’s water needs.

At the end of the discussion, the board voted 4-1, with Gasperson dissenting, to send the amended contract to ICWD for its consideration.

Among the changes to the contract approved by the board is a new provision regarding a joint coordinating committee, with representatives from Polk County and ICWD, that would oversee implementation of the agreement.

Previously, the contract said that the committee would schedule at least two meetings a year, but on the advice of County Attorney Jan Berg, the commissioners inserted a provision that would allow either Polk County or ICWD to call a special meeting of the committee at any time.

Another new clause will specify that ICWD will be responsible for providing for the needs of Polk’s separate municipal water systems, in the event they ever need to draw water from Polk County’s system due to drought or other problems.

The most recent draft of the contract, which doesn’t include the new amendments, can be read below.

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<a href=”http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2167031/draft-water-system-contract-between-polk-county.pdf”>Draft Water System Contract Between Polk County and ICWD, June 2015 (PDF)</a><br />
<a href=”http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2167031/draft-water-system-contract-between-polk-county.txt”>Draft Water System Contract Between Polk County and ICWD, June 2015 (Text)</a>

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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