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TWSA board members consider update to Cashiers allocation policy

The Sylva Herald & Ruralite of Sylva, North Carolina

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Various policy changes could be on the way for the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority.

TWSA officials met Jan. 13 to discuss the potential changes, the first of which is an update in the Cashiers sewer allocation transfer policy to include properties "not of common ownership." In short, the policy would start to include nonprofits and government agencies.

An engineering report completed in May 2011 found there is, and will continue to be, a critical need for additional wastewater treatment capacity in Cashiers. In late 2013, TWSA began allowing transfers of allocation to help ease the pain in the short term.

Currently, TWSA does not permit sewer allocation transfer between "not of common ownership" entities. Director Dan Harbaugh said properties with common ownership were addressed when the policy was first worked on since it was the easiest aspect of the issue.

Moving forward, Harbaugh said the goal is to create a policy that "promotes the use of capacity if there is a new use that is economical and beneficial" while allowing TWSA to maintain control of the allocation process.

"You don't want to have parties who hold allocation having complete control over the terms and conditions by which a transfer is allowed," said Harbaugh in a follow-up interview. "This is typically done through a process of 'banking' the allocations with TWSA and establishing the current value of the allocation, and using the 'bank' to process the transfers.

"The reason this is important is to jiot create a situation where profiteering can occur from the process," he said.

The conversation for modifying the policy was sparked when the Cashiers Valley Community Council, a nonprofit organization operating within the same building as the Boys and Girls Club, purchased a modular unit to move its thrift store operation and to provide more space for the Boys and Girls Club.

The plan was to install a unisex bathroom in the modular unit; however, no allocation is or was available for purchase, leaving transfer of allocation as the only option. Up to this point, the organization's nonprofit status has prevented that from happening.

TWS Aheld a public meeting at the Cashiers Library Jan. 22 in part to receive feedback on the proposed change to the transfer policy. Harbaugh said the meeting was attended by more than 40 people.

TWSA staff has been working to develop a proposed draft policy to address the issue under guidance from the TWSA Policy Committee. Feedback taken from the public meeting will be incorporated as well. Once completed, the Policy Committee will review the draft and send it to board members for any final revisions or comments. Board members will then vote to approve/adopt the policy.

In a related matter, TWSA board members talked about the possibility of implementing a policy to allow commercial business tenants of a property to rent increased water/sewer capacity rather than paying for it all upfront.

Typically, the burden of purchasing an increase of water/sewer allocation has fallen on the tenant (the business owner) instead of the properly owner. Property owners don't want the cost passed on to them because they can't be sure of how long a business needing the additional capacity will be there. Additional allocations cannot be sold back to TWSA or transferred to a new location when a business moves out.

The tenants have similar concerns. When moving into a new property, they immediately have to worry about paying what can end up being a large sum of money for the increase of allocation. This can act as a disincentive for businesses moving or expanding into new locations.

Under a new policy, tenants would have the option to pay a monthly fee for the increase of allocation. If a business were to relocate or go under, the properly owner would still have the original water/sewer allocation, and the business owner would be relieved of the monthly bill for additional capacity.

"The idea is that it's not a burden on the property owner - he doesn't have to come up with the capital expense upfront to buy the additional allocation - and it's neither a burden on the business owner who is developing the business," Harbaugh said at the Jan. 13 meeting.

The final policy discussion on Jan. 13 surrounded the $10,000 set aside in a special reserve fund of the 2014-15 budget for "Economic Development and Outreach." Setting the funds aside was only the first step; a policy and procedure for utilizing those funds has yet to be developed or adopted.

Past discussions have concluded that TWSA's policy and procedure will follow the Jackson County Economic Development Commission's policy and standards, which will be presented to county commissioners in the coming months.

Similar to the potential Cashiers sewer allocation transfer policy change, TWSA staff has been working on proposed drafts for the leased property allocation requirements and the policy/procedure for how to use the economic development reserve funds. The TWSA Policy Committee has been involved in both processes, and TWSA will once again seek public input down the line. TWSA board members will make the final call on the policy changes after the proposed drafts are complete.

In other business, TWSA board members held an action meeting Jan. 20 in which they: Voted unanimously to approve a list of excess property items to be disposed of.

Some of the items, such as old computer-related equipment, have a limited market to where they will be "recycled to the greatest extent possible." Harbaugh said TWSA's IT contractor will wipe all hard drives before that happens.

Other items, such as wa-ter/wastewater equipment and construction/transportation equipment, can still be used by other organizations and will be put on the market for sale.

Voted unanimously to approve several mid-year budget amendments Harbaugh described the amendments as "routine adjustments" based on TWSA financial conditions most recently made available. TWSA is currently over on projected revenue for the fiscal year and under on pro-jected expenses, Harbaugh said.

Voted unanimously for newly appointed board members Mike Byers and David Nestler to assume the same committee positions as their predecessors. Byers and Nestler replaced Robert Edwards and Ray Lewis at the Jan. 13 meeting. Edwards' and Lewis' terms both came to an end in December.

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Original Publication Date: January 29, 2015

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