jason bradyLocal government is going for the trifecta of acting for the public good.

Previously, we published the exclusive story that the city of Fayetteville is starting in earnest its hunt for a new “permanent” police chief. The move could possibly remove the popular and very able interim Chief Anthony Kelly, who insiders say may not seek the permanent post.

But the cool thing about the police chief recruitment is the city will use citizens in the selection process, although that process has yet to be defined. Still, it’s a good thing to allow people who pay the bills to have some say about how they are governed, or in this instance, policed.

Before that, we wrote about the proposed merger of the city and the county independently operated 911 emergency call centers. The driving force behind that move to play nice with each other is to enhance that important life-saving public service and to eventually save taxpayer dollars. Citizens win on that one.

This week we’ve learned that Cumberland County elected officials and the city’s Public Works Commission met to talk about water. Yes, water for areas of the county that need that very common commodity but have a problem getting it. The Gray’s Creek community is one such place.

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners at its retreat in late January questioned whether the Fayetteville Public Works Commission could provide water to the unincorporated areas of the county; especially those areas that are in dire need of safe drinking water.

But those questions by commissioners were tossed at the county’s engineer who happened to be there and could only guess what PWC could or couldn’t do.
County commissioners didn’t waste time looking for answers. Commission Chairman Glenn Adams today acknowledged to me that he and County Manager Amy Cannon recently met with PWC Chairwoman Evelyn Shaw and PWC Manager David Trego.

Adams said they discussed “possibilities and options” available but gave no details. “After that information is gathered, we will have a follow-up meeting,” he said.
The city of Fayetteville, which owns the Public Works Commission, in the past, used municipal water and sewer services as leverage to get unincorporated areas needing those services to agree to be annexed. That was a bitter pill for many to swallow, especially developers.

It was the only option available to grow the city since the General Assembly banned municipalities from forced annexation. The law repealing forced annexation by North Carolina municipalities came as a result of Fayetteville’s 2005 Big Bang Annexation.

And the onus put on PWC by the city to build costly water and sewer lines in the annexed areas strained the relationship between the city and its utility. The long, simmering internal feud about which of the two ultimately controls the utility came to a head last year when PWC sued the city over the issue. PWC won the court battle and won greater autonomy from its owner.

This past summer, PWC did away with the requirement for any areas or housing/commercial developments to agree to be annexed if it wanted water.

Local developers lauded the move because it opens opportunities to build subdivisions and commercial properties in the county with safe, clean tap water.

And developers won’t be yoked with urban development standards required when you build in the city.

That could be a good and bad thing, depending on where developers will cut corners to cut costs and increase margins. Time will tell.

PWC spokeswoman Carolyn Justice-Hinson said one of PWC’s strategic goals is to work with the county and support economic development. That’s a given when you realize the PWC’s board consists primarily of business minded individuals.

Despite losing a leverage to grow the city, Mayor Nat Robertson said the City Council is OK with PWC extending water outside the city limits.

Besides, the PWC won its partial emancipation from the city as a result of the court case … which taxpayers and ratepayers funded.

“We support countywide water for economic development,” Mayor Robertson said. The city still has a chance to annex when an area asks for sewer, he said.

Councilman Bill Crisp agrees. “PWC is autonomous. They have the power and authority to do this without the city,” he said.

“Personally, I’ve always said it is God’s water and should be available to everyone.”

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