on May 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Clemson, Anderson ponder action against Anderson water system

ANDERSON — The Clemson and Anderson city councils have authorized legal action against the Anderson Regional Joint Water System (ARJWS) if that board follows through with plans to approve what the two municipalities feel are costly long-range water system improvements.

The decision came following an executive session meeting Monday night.

Clemson City Administrator Rick Cotton said both municipalities heard the findings from an independent third-party engineer, who concurred with Design South of Anderson in their estimate that long-range water system improvements could take place for $10 million. Camp Dresser McGee, or CDM, Inc., an international firm with a local office in Greenville, has estimated $40 million for improvements — an estimate that has received support from the water system board.

“Both city councils have authorized staff to issue a lawsuit against the Anderson Regional Joint Water System if they choose the approach that has been suggested by CDM,” Cotton said.

The city administrator said the reason for the decision is that the board has scheduled a May 13th meeting in which they will hear the same report. During that meeting, the executive committee will choose a preferred transmission improvement plan.

The Anderson water system is comprised of 13 governing bodies, consisting of cities and water systems, with each member receiving a certain number of votes based on its water capacity. As a member, Clemson owns 10 percent of the capacity in the 45-million gallon per day treatment plant.

But last fall, Chuck Joye of Design South initially acknowledged the disagreement concerning water system improvement cost estimates during a meeting with Clemson City Council. Joye said the cost estimates arose from a Preliminary Engineering Report released by Anderson water system staff.

Cotton said at the same meeting that engineers discovered some of the detailed projects listed in the report “exceed the amount of water that can go throughout the plant.” The city administrator added that city staff felt the report should be designed to allow the current capacity to be safely and adequately delivered to all purchasers of treatment capacity.

In February, a letter submitted to the board by Clemson Mayor Larry Abernathy and Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts stated their intentions to seek “injunctive relief” if their concerns were not addressed. The two municipalities also agreed to authorize up to $60,000 to resolve the dispute and to send a letter to Scott Willett, director of the Anderson water system, expressing their concerns and planned course of action.

In addition, both parties agreed to evenly split the $25,000 cost of hiring an independent third-party engineer to review the two water system improvement plans and requested that the board delay its decision until the results from the study were received.

Cotton said the reason for the lawsuit authorization is that the board has scheduled a May 13th meeting in which they will hear the same report. During that same meeting, the executive committee will choose a preferred transmission improvement plan.

“We’re not threatening, but if folks ask us to participate, don’t ask us to waste money,” Cotton said. “This money isn’t supposed to be spent for future growth. It’s to handle what the plant can produce.

“We have no problem with a city or municipality funding, at their cost, any enlargement or additional capacity that may be needed in future years. But it’s inequitable to ask us to do this. I wouldn’t ask Starr-Iva to pay for our improvements.”

Though he declined comment on whether Clemson or Anderson would remain on the board if the more costly option were approved, Cotton admitted that the relationship between the two municipalities and the board has grown increasingly strained in recent months.

“There has been a chasm develop here, and it’s unfortunate,” he said. “We still think it was a wise decision to go with the Anderson water system, but we feel that if this went to a jury, a jury would side with us.

“If we have to do that, we have to do that.”

Central is also a member of the regional water system and Town Administrator Phillip Mishoe remains hopeful that legal action can be avoided.

“I hope we can come to some sort of a resolution without having to incur court costs,” he said.