Chatham County government needs to pay closer attention to our county water works

By Mark Stinson
Siler City, NC – I have a number of folks who sent  responses on the county water issue posts. There is an opinion floating around that our former county manager used a blank check policy to allow certain favored contractors to put in water lines instead of the bid process mandated by law. My understanding from what I have learned through various emails is that certain Democratic commissioners responsible for the county manager keeping his job so long knew of this policy up to our current administration and that this open checkbook policy is still in place.

water lineWe have seen where Karen Howard managed to spend $30,000 on an arts program on a personal whim recently. This gives some merit to an open checkbook policy still being in use abusing tax payer dollars. This practice has to stop.

One person explained the legal process for contracting work that was not followed for over 20 years as follows.

Cost (Bid Thresholds)

1. $30,000 – informal bid threshold for purchase and construction & repair contracts
2. $90,000 – formal bid threshold for purchase contracts
3. $500,000 – formal bid threshold for construction & repair contracts

Several others related the same kind of situation I have with the two inch water line where they were supposed to get a bigger line and didn’t or have had lots of issues with water line breaks. A former water department employee emailed me with a statement to the effect that lines were dug and installed and they were never inspected before being put into use.

A separate email later today identified who the county manager favored to write these blank checks to; Hobbs Upchurch and Associates. There is a lot of missing information about water lines installed prior to 1999 when these actions were questioned. I was told even the county water paperwork to this day about work contracted outside the water department isn’t kept in a manor it can be clearly understood or validated. No one knows who the sub contractors are on many of these rural water lines.

One person stated that as much as 75 percent of the secondary water lines are of sub standard sized and schedule piping in parts of Chatham County. What I saw when my line was dug up is further proof of what they claim. This person also said they estimated the cost of this policy to taxpayers could be in the millions. I think this needs to be cleared up and investigated. If this is true it will effect the service of hundreds of rural water customers and possibly thousands in developments in the northeastern corner of the county. It could lead to water pressure and water delivery problems in the future that would cripple these areas of the county.

People in all parts of rural Chatham are all at risk with these subpar water lines. We don’t know how many are not up to code nor do we know which pipes could fail unless we dig them all up. In my opinion this appears to be a fine mess of coverups and kickbacks. I hope I am wrong for the sake of Chatham water customers.

This is more reason we have to elect responsible people like Jay Stobbs and Peyton Holland into office in November who will have a more transparent method of running the county government where all the laws are followed holding people accountable who cut corners and abuse tax payer dollars. We need them in office to tighten up the careless spending to keep property taxes down and the quality of services to taxpayers up in Chatham County.