Artesian Water has made a second pitch to connect to Milton's water system in order to provide an emergency line that would serve both the company and the town in the case of a water shortage.
Artesian officials presented a revised plan to the water committee Oct. 29 that would cost Milton nothing upfront. Ken Branner, director of business development, said Artesian would pay the entire cost to lay the pipe to town limits. If the day comes when Milton annexes land and wants to utilize the line, the town would then begin to pay off the cost of construction and take ownership of the pipeline.
“This is a perfect opportunity because we have the ability and the resources to be able to provide this interconnection,” Branner said.
Milton has been searching for new ways to increase its water production and reserves over the last several years. Two referendums have failed in that time, but the water committee and town officials continue to look at ways to supplement its water supply.
Artesian's latest pitch is to construct a 12-inch main from the Holland Mills community about 2.5 miles south on Walker Road. Artesian would pay the $850,000 price tag for construction. The more than $300,000 cost of the portion of the pipeline located outside of Milton's designated growth area would fall entirely on Artesian; if Milton later taps into the line inside its growth area, Branner said, the town would pay for the remaining $530,000 over time, based on build out.
“It would not cost them any money they would not recoup from development to pay for that line,” Branner said. “If Milton never wanted to use this line for anything other than supply to them, it would never have to pay a penny for it.”
One factor that would need to be negotiated, Branner said, is a minimum daily intake into Milton's system. Branner said the intake can be nominal, but should occur to keep the line flowing.
He said it's not uncommon and it has similar partnerships with nine other towns in the state, such as Bethany Beach, Middletown and Clayton.
“It's a good service because it provides a good reliable source based on need,” he said.
A year ago in November, Artesian officials pitched a different plan to town council. At that time, Artesian wanted to connect Milton's system with its Beaver Creek facility about 2.5 miles south on Route 5. The cost was estimated at less than $1 million, but Milton would have paid for a portion of the cost right away.
Since last year, Branner said, Artesian had discussions with former Mayor Cliff Newlands, former Town Manager Win Abbott and former Public Works Director Allen Atkins and determined a better connecting point may be along Cave Neck Road. Unaware of the previous discussions, Mayor Marion Jones requested Artesian discuss its new plan in an open meeting setting.
Water committee member Sam Garde said Artesian's pitch should be considered along with other alternatives the town is exploring, such as drilling a new well.
“This alternative does not require [a referendum] to get it established. I think it deserves consideration,” he said. “If we don't make it attractive to the people of the community that borrowing money to sink a new well is needed, it has a reasonable probability of failing.”
Committee Chairman Emory West said it is tough to sell an interconnection because many residents feel duped by Tidewater following its wastewater rate hike in 2011.
“[Some residents] are dead set against it because of everything that went down with Tidewater,” he said. “It's left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths and they're afraid that in this we're trying to sell out to Artesian.”