Today (08/02/19), Governor Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 320: “Regional Water Systems and State Grants.” You can click the link to the bill to read it for yourself.
Upon vetoing the bill, the Governor shared the following statement: “Local governments have an important duty to resolve differences between themselves and ensure fair access to vital resources like water for their residents. However, they should not use state law to seek an unfair advantage in negotiations.”
Specific to the City of Henderson and The Kerr Lake Regional Water System, of which Henderson is the managing partner, is the rate the KLRWS charges Franklin County, a customer of the KLRWS, and how that rate was to be set.
Also of particular local interest is the political means by which the bills were introduced to try to force the City of Henderson’s hand.
It did not work.
The reason it did not work is because of a local delegation and its efforts, and the principles apparent in the Governor’s statement.
And, if you circle back to some of the flap about the state budget, medicaid expansion and the Department of Health and Human Services administrative offices possibly relocating to Granville and Vance Counties, then that might shed a little light to.
Henderson Mayor Eddie Ellington briefed WIZS News “on some major events that are taking place in regards to the City of Henderson and the Kerr Lake Regional Water System and our board of partners. There have been ongoing talks and negotiations with the NC Senate and NC House in regards to House Bill 414 and Senate Bill 320 which would allow Franklin County, which is a customer not a partner, to have a say in the rates they pay for water.”
Ellington said, “It has come down to party lines, and it was originally pulled after myself, the city manager (Frank Frazier), city attorney (D. Rix Edwards) and former city attorney John Zollicoffer, who wrote the agreement almost 40 years ago along with Senator Floyd McKissick’s father, went to Raleigh and met with all the parties on both sides.”
The Governor’s veto has a direct impact “regarding our water system as well as the financial vitality for the city (of Henderson) as controlling partner,” Ellington said.
The other partners with Henderson in the KLRWS are the City of Oxford and Warren County.
The System serves three bulk customers including the City of Henderson, City of Oxford and Warren County, and it presently supplies water to the Town of Kittrell, Town of Norlina, Franklin County, Town of Warrenton, Town of Stovall and Town of Middleburg.
Except for Franklin County, these areas served are the same areas represented by Terry Garrison (NC House 32). Garrison told WIZS News on July 15th that he was a pawn in a chess game of politics involving the DHHS move and medicaid expansion and his unwillingness to help override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the state budget. As to the politics of that matter, Garrison has stayed with the Democratic Governor and the North Carolina Democratic Caucus. What’s apolitical is the other thing Garrison said about not overriding the Govenor’s Veto of the state budget. “If we can get true bi-partisan support on the relocation (of DHHS), I think that provides the greatest opportunity for sustainability,” he said.
Did Garrison’s sticking with the Governor, so far, on the budget influence the Governor on today’s veto which helps Henderson, Vance County and Granville and Warren Counties that Garrison represents? Don’t know. There’s not a source for that. No politician will answer that question.
If you read Senate Bill 320: “Regional Water Systems and State Grants, which the Governor vetoed today, it appears to say in layman’s terms that the State will not provide loans or grants to a regional water system or a system trying to go regional unless certain terms are met.
The power of the purse looms large for the KLRWS right now as expansion efforts are near.
The problem for Henderson and the KLRWS is that, in addition to the fact that Franklin County tried to use politics to award itself enough control to help set its own water rates rather than simply remain the customer that it is, the final sentence of the bill, part D, targets Henderson and the KLRWS. It says, “Subsections (b) and (c) of this section shall apply only to disbursements of a loan or grant where the disbursement is for regionalization and the recipient or a beneficiary of the disbursement withdraws water from a reservoir owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers lying in at least two states with a dam located outside North Carolina.”
That’s aimed right at Henderson and the KLRWS. The net effect would have been: here is state law, but it applies to few and possibly only one area. It was an obvious but thinly veiled attempt to gain through politics.
The Governor did not allow it. And the interesting twist is that, if the principle of the matter weren’t so apparent in the veto statement, you might even conclude still other politics is what stopped it.
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