Election ’09: Water is main issue for China Grove
By Shavonne Potts
CHINA GROVE ó It’s not uncommon for candidates to disagree on issues during an election. But China Grove candidates agree that one of the biggest concerns is how to save their town from high water costs.
More than a decade ago during a severe drought, China Grove signed a contract with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities for water it now does not use. The town is in talks with Salisbury about a possible merger that would help reduce its rates.
Candidates Butch Bivens, Brandon Linn, Charles Seaford and Mike Upright detail their position on this and other issues. The four men are vying for three available board seats.
– Butch Bivens, 60.
“Pursuit of any avenue to reduce water and sewer rates must be explored,” Bivens said.
Some of those avenues, he added, include looking at long-term demand capability, expansion and system operations and maintenance cost must also be considered.
Bivens also supports the town’s proposal to renovate the police and fire departments.
“It presents an opportunity to utilize and maximize pre-existing town owned buildings and grounds to expand the facilities and operations of town hall and emergency services,” Bivens said.
Bivens reminds voters when they go to the polls to vote for someone like him who he feels “has experience, thinks rationally, weighs the issues, has community involvement and is dedicated to work for the betterment of the town.”
Bivens is currently completing his 14th year on the town board.
– Mike Upright, 55.
Upright said he’s not sure if there is a way out of this agreement with Salisbury, “but perhaps we could possibly renegotiate the terms and try to get a better rate, or possibly reduce the length of the agreement,” Upright said.
He believes the contract was entered into at a time that led all parties to “rush into an agreement that was not as fair to China Grove as it should have been.”
Upright takes a different position than some of his opponents on whether the town should be renovating its police and fire departments.
“While the estimated cost of $1.9 million doesn’t seem out of line for the work needed, I’m not sure that the timing is right for this project,” he said.
He also feels the 10 percent contingency built into the project is not enough.
“I worry that this may not be enough due to possible hidden structural issues with the existing structure,” Upright said.
It may not be in the best interest of the town to pursue these construction projects right now, he said.
Upright wants to see a study done to compare the expansion/refurbishing to a new complex.
“While this issue is critical for our fire department, I think we should look at every option at this point,” he said.
He vows to try to make spending decisions, “as if the budget monies were my own and act accordingly.”
– Brandon Linn, 27.
Linn also is not in favor of any type of merger with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.
“I feel that if the town of China Grove merges with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities it will give them the upper hand, basically handing them a key to our town,” Linn said.
He believes all residents should pay a reasonable amount for water and sewer. He said it’s unfair to senior citizens on a fixed income to pay such outrageous rates for water.
Linn is a Landis police officer and knows about the safety precautions law enforcement officers must make. He supports the proposed renovations, saying it would clear up a lot of safety issues.
Every time a fire truck parks in the station, the firefighters have to stop traffic to back the truck into the station, Linn said.
“I believe the fire department should have more than one way to enter and exit the building regarding the vehicles,” he said.
The issue the police department faces is having to question prisoners in the open, sharing space with other people who come to the department.
Linn is running for town council because he wants “the best for the citizens,” especially the youth.
There needs to be some positive programs and activities for teens, he said.
Linn suggests a possible activity for the youth would be to build a skate park beside the police department.
A similar idea proved successful for Mooresville, he said.
The reason he would build the park near the police department is because it would deter criminal activity and violence.
– Charles Seaford, 52.
There are some things Seaford said he would have to look into before making a decision on the water/sewer situation, including the contract or letter of intent. He would want to read it and see what exactly it says.
“I want to see what this agreement means to China Grove and how we can manage it to reduce the cost to our citizens,” he said.
Seaford is not in favor of merging China Grove’s water system with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities or letting the Salisbury system take over China Grove’s system.
“When we do this, we will lose all internal and external controls. The folks in China Grove will not have a recourse to their water bills,” he said.
Seaford said there are a number of needed repairs to the fire/police department building. He noted the concrete flooring that once supported cars as an auto dealership, but is not thick enough to support the weight of fire trucks.
“If the town has the money or some grant funding, then now is a great time to start construction,” he said.
Seaford would use his 32 years of experience at Duke Energy where for the last 10 years he’s worked closely with project management and managing contracts with vendors.