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Louisburg to consider water sales to county

LOUISBURG -- As expected, the Louisburg Town Council, meeting in a special noon-time session on Monday, agreed to make an offer to purchase a downtown historic landmark, but it appears the deal may be in trouble already.

At the meeting, the town agreed to pay $78,500 for the Egerton House in downtown with town officials believing they had an option to buy the property for that amount.

The deal was to purchase the house with its current owners to reimburse the town $500 for an existing lien on it for nuisance abatement. Both parties were also supposed to pay their own closing costs and any prorated fees.

However, Town Administrator Jonathan Franklin said not long after the meeting that the seller apparently was having second thoughts and may back out of the deal.

Franklin said the town is interested but can't move forward until the owner decides how to proceed.

The early 20th Century home was designed for local merchant Frank N. Egerton by Marion Stuart Davis. It is one of several buildings in Franklin County that Davis designed during a long career as a civil engineer and architect here.

Town officials said they were hoping to save the structure, which overlooks part of downtown and is considered one of the keys to restoring the area.

At Monday's meeting, which lasted barely 10 minutes, the town council also set a special meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, to consider two items of business.

The major item of business is consideration of an amendment to the town's water contract with Franklin County. The county commissioners are planning to meet Monday, Aug. 3, and assuming they finalize the contract amendment, town officials are planning to consider it the following day.

The town is currently selling water to the county under a contract dating back to 1993 but which has been amended since then.

The most recent version of the contract actually expired in 2014 but contained a provision that the town and county could continue the arrangement on a yearly basis unless one or the other gave notice 180 days in advance of Jan. 1 that it wanted to end the agreement.

It is expected that this new agreement will have the county buying up to 500,000 gallons of water a day at $3.50 per thousand gallons, slightly less than the county is now paying to get water from the Kerr Lake consortium that controls water from the Roanoke River Valley reservoir.

Franklin explained that the town is not interested in a long-term contract, at this time, but would sell the county water on a yearly contract. The town would use the extra funds for water system upgrades and to help develop the new industrial park along T. Kemp Road, Franklin said.

The town is currently permitted to draw as much as 1.6 million gallons of water a day from the Tar River but even with this agreement the actual draw would likely be below 1.3 million gallons.

The town's treatment plant can handle the amount of additional water the county wants to buy without increasing staff at the treatment plant, Franklin said.

Franklin said that the town's plant is now operating at about 50 percent capacity and "that doesn't serve our customers well."

He said that converting that unused capacity into revenue dollars that can be used for other projects makes sense, especially since the agreement is short term. If the town suddenly has a new customer that needs extra water, arrangements can be made.

"This is a win-win for Louisburg and Franklin County. The county gets cheaper water, and we can lessen the long-term burden on our customers".

Franklin County is facing ever-increasing demands for water from developers anxious to build houses and other developments in the county but have been stymied by a lack of water.

The second item of business at the special meeting is to hire an accounting firm to develop the annual financial statement for the town for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Franklin said it is best to hire an accounting firm as soon as possible to meet state reporting deadlines.


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