W.K. Dickson Co. has made a strong case for Elkin owning, operating and maintaining the Ronda water system, or at least operating and maintaining the system under an inter-governmental agreement.
The Charlotte-based engineering firm explains why this should occur in a 68-page report on the company’s feasibility study on merging the two water systems, funded with a $50,000 state grant.
Except for buying water from some other system, Ronda’s only water source now is single well with decreasing productivity. One of the town’s two water storage tanks needs significant refurbishment or should be replaced.
The Ronda water system has fewer than 400 customers, with little likelihood of significant growth.
The report cited Ronda’s difficulty hiring and keeping certified staff to operate and maintain the water system.
Ronda has had problems collecting water bills.
In April, issues with the Ronda water system’s financial records were cited as a reason for the town’s 2017-18 audit not yet being completed.
The report said Ronda is at risk of being taken over by the N.C. Local Government Commission for failure to submit audit reports for several years. This takeover would include the Ronda water system.
The Ronda water system is on a state list of non-viable water systems. Despite the undesirability of this designation, it makes up to $3 million available as a grant from the state for improvements to the Ronda and Elkin water systems if Elkin assumes ownership of the Ronda system.
State funding policies support such mergers because of their resulting economies of scale and other efficiencies.
Elkin has infrastructure for providing Ronda the water it needs as a result of Ronda already buying more than half of its water from Elkin.
The W.K. Dickson Co. report indicates that the economic development potential of the Ronda area, especially near U.S. 421, will remain unrealized if the Ronda water system is not combined with a larger system.
Elkin is in the best position to make this happen. There’s reason to expect Wilkesboro or North Wilkesboro to extend their water lines to Ronda.
The report says Ronda water customers can expect their water rates to keep rising if the Ronda water system isn’t merged with the Elkin system.
Other municipalities in Wilkes County have demonstrated how hard it can be to give up control, even when it’s clearly the way to produce the best outcome.
Ronda officials should consider this as they ponder the proposed merger of the Ronda and Elkin water systems.