Four compete for three seats in China Grove
By Shavonne Potts
CHINA GROVE ó Four men are vying for three seats on the town’s Board of Aldermen.
Butch Bivens, Brandon Linn, Charles Seaford and Mike Upright agree the cost of water and how to reduce that cost is one of the biggest issues facing China Grove. Each has an opinion on how to deal with that issue and on renovations to the town’s fire and police departments.
During a severe drought, China Grove signed a contract with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities for water it now doesn’t use. The town is in talks with Salisbury about a possible merger that would help reduce its rates.
Bivens, 60 and completing his 14th year on the board, said he thinks “any avenue to reduce water and sewer rates must be explored.” In doing so, he said, long-term demand, expansion and system operations and maintenance cost must 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.
Upright, 55, said of the water agreement with Salisbury, “… perhaps we could possibly renegotiate the terms and try to get a better rate, or possibly reduce the length of the agreement.” He said the circumstances led to a “rush into an agreement that was not as fair to China Grove as it should have been.”
While Upright said the estimated $1.9 million cost of renovating the police and fire department “doesn’t seem out of line for the work needed, I’m not sure that the timing is right for this project.”
He wants to see a study done to compare the refurbishing to building 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.
Linn, 27, opposes any type of merger with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, saying such a deal would “give them the upper hand, basically handing them a key to our town.” He said residents should pay a reasonable amount for water and sewer and that current rates are unfair to senior citizens on a fixed income.
Linn, a Landis police officer, supports renovating the police and fire departments, saying it would solve many safety issues such as police officers being forced to question suspects in a public space and firefighters having to stop traffic each time a fire truck parks in the station.
“I believe the fire department should have more than one way to enter and exit the building regarding the vehicles,” he said.
Seaford, 52, said before making a decision on the town’s water situation, he would need to look into issues surrounding it, but he opposes merging China Grove’s water system with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.
“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 building housing the fire and police departments. He noted the concrete flooring 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.