By Jesse Wood
June 5, 2013. The Boone Town Council and Water Use Committee plan to meet on Tuesday, June 11, at 5:30 p.m. inside the Council Chambers.
Among several agenda items to be discussed, the committee will peruse water calculations for the old Watauga High School property and possibly take action on the “removal of all water reserve for the old high school property,” according to the meeting’s agenda that has been posted on the Town of Boone’s website.
The 75-acre lot at the old Watauga High School site is owned by the county yet resides in the town.
At the request of the county, the town, in 2011, reserved 150,000 gallons-per-day allocation for the property “in recognition of its value to citizens” of the town and taxpayers of the county, according to a statement released from the Town of Boone in April, hours after the Republican majority of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners voted to redistribute the sales tax.
(That vote left the Town of Boone with a $1.8-million revenue cut for the upcoming fiscal-year budget. Nathan Miller, chair of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, initiated the sales tax discussion because of development regulations the Boone Town Council approved in February – months after Phli Templeton’s $19-million offer on the old WHS property was accepted by the commissioners in November.)
A portion of that April 16 statement from Boone continued, “[That 150,000 gpd] at the time represented about one-fourth of the total remaining water the town could allocate before a new water intake was built.”
On Wednesday, Miller added that he wasn’t “surprised” that the elimination of the reserve was up for discussion at the next Water Use Committee meeting.
If the reserve were to be eliminated, Miller said, “It would obviously make the selling of the high school a lot more difficult.”
“They are doing it in retaliation, which they can choose to do. Their actions already hurt the citizens of the town and county and [this proposal would] just further hurt the citizens of the county and town,” Miller continued.
When posed questions regarding the upcoming meeting such as who requested this item to be put on the agenda, a staff member at the town’s public utilities department, who deferred to Public Utilities Director Rick Miller, directed High Country Press to seek answers and information through the Freedom of Information Act.
Calls to Mayor Loretta Clawson, who is the chair of the Water Use Committee, were not immediately returned on Wednesday afternoon.
Water has been an important factor with regards to the old Watauga High School site.
In 2011, Rick Miller of Miller Properties (a different Rick Miller than the town’s public utilities director) sought 365,367 gpd with his $10-million bid on the old WHS site. Seeking more money, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners didn’t accept that offer.
And most recently, attorney Allen Moseley of Deal, Moseley and Smith, who was representing Phil Templeton and his $19-million bid on the old WHS property, penned a letter to the Boone Town Council requesting a future increase of water allocation if Templeton was to go through with the purchase of the property.
“In addition to the 150,000 gallons of water per day set aside for this project, an additional 100,000 gallons will need to be set aside for use by 2015 or 2016,” Moseley wrote on April 12.
Templeton backed out of his offer at the end of the inspection period in May.
Nathan Miller said that developers have told him that they need a “large amount of water” to develop the 75-acre property.
If the reserve were eliminated, Miller said developers would need a longer due-diligence period because they would have to talk to the town about getting water for a particular project.
“They are using water and sewer as a weapon to stifle development they don’t like,” Miller said.
Click here to see the upcoming meeting’s agenda.