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LETTERS / There Are Many Questions That This New Information Raises

Dear Editor,

So, on 11/15/18 the HCP staff wrote a news article basically recapping the Boone Town Council meeting from October 18, 2018 in regards to the town’s water intake update. In what world is it news to report on a meeting nearly 30 days after the meeting actually took place?  More newsworthy reporting would have been to report on the town council meeting that took place on night of 11/15/18.  Did anyone from the HCP press attend that meeting or even watch the video of the meeting.  If you did,  then you know that the info reported from the 10/18 meeting was old news.  At the 11/15 meeting during the town manager’s comments (at about the 33 minute mark of the video) it was revealed that the contractor (Harper Corporation) for the project would not be seeking a “change order” to further extend the contract beyond the scheduled 11/7 completion date (extended originally from August 2018 by approval of a change order by council). One would have had to have been privy to the town council closed session meetings to understand why an additional change order for extending the project is not being sought.  However, it was revealed at the 11/15 meeting that it is not.  At the 11/15 meeting it was also revealed that the new projected completion date for the Boonedoggle is now 12/31/18 (good luck on that Boone) and that the contractor (Harper Corporation) is now subject to liquidated damages of $1,500 per day (maximum allowed for a USDA funded contract according to Mr. Ward) from 11/8/18 (the day after the latest change order extension). This is important information and news to the citizens of Boone who are on the hook for the $42.7M cost of this project…all for an unnecessary project as has been documented by the town’s actual water usage numbers submitted to the state over the last 10 years. That information has been provided to the HCP in spreadsheet form. Yet the HCP is “reporting” from a meeting 30 days ago. 

The HCP has not reported in it’s information on this project that the town used less water in 2017 than it was using in 2008 when the project was approved by the voters (based on information provided by the town that they were running out of water).  In fact, in 2017 according to the town’s Local Water Supply Plan submitted to the state annually the town used 1.538 MGD (Average Daily Use) versus 1.802 MGD in 2008. Water usage has gone down for a variety of reasons…for example conservation, more efficient use of water in new building, and repair of a significant leak of finished water in the old clear well at the water treatment plant. The bottom line is that the town water usage has declined by 14.7% since 2008 and the town is not running out of water. In fact if you look at recent articles in the Watauga Democrat about the recently reinstated Water Use Committee, the town is now trying to figure out ways to sell the water to help pay for this project.

As I noted in my comments to the HCP article on the intake on 8/7/18, we would soon see who was correct in reporting that the intake project would be finished by 11/7/18…Mr. Miller of the town and the HCP reporting same or my observations. It is now 11/18/18 and it is still weeks away from completion…minimum.  In my opinion, the HCP article on 11/15/18 was a disservice to the people in the area by reporting mostly old and outdated information and a regurgitation of the town’s talking points from the 10/18 meeting.  There was no “news” there. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the HCP to report on the 11/15 council meeting and the latest project progress, or lack there of, and if anyone is interested in doing a little investigative reporting to dig into the problems and issues that are ongoing with this project rather than some pretty pictures from the intake sight with no real substance.  There are many questions that this new information raises that should be answered by the town through a little investigative news research.  

Frank Packard
Todd, N.C.