Cabarrus cities look to Albemarle for future water needs


Albemarle could sell Concord and Kannapolis up to 5 million gallons of water per day as soon as 2013, according to a $21 million plan to construct an 84,000-foot water line to the Stanly County city, which has water intakes on the Yadkin River.

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett and Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer called a meeting Wednesday between all three city councils — a historic event and the culmination of years of work to find alternative water sources for the future.

All three councils must vote on the agreement to make it final and move forward with the design and construction of the water line, city officials said.

City managers from all three cities opened the meeting describing both the need for another water source in Concord and Kannapolis and the benefit to Albemarle in selling to the two cities.

"We found out not only do we have problems for the future, but we also have a problem in yield in our current reservoir," Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt said.

Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg said the two cities would need about 36 million gallons of water daily by 2035.

During the recent drought, both cities added connections — Concord connected to Charlotte's system and Kannapolis to Salisbury's.

Raymond Allen, city manager for Albemarle said selling water to Concord and Kannapolis would help defray the cost of maintaining the city's system and future improvements to it.

"We're using about a third of our treatment capacity," Allen said, adding that the city sells water to the majority of Stanly County.

"Under the sales arrangement with Concord and Kannapolis, we could spread our fixed costs over a larger base," Allen said. "If we had the additional revenue from the sale to Concord and Kannapolis… there would be additional funds for maintenance, the city could also retire the debt service for its portion of the line."

Allen said the Yadkin River is the second largest river basin in North Carolina, but still has a relatively small demand on it.

The proposed water line would run parallel to N.C. 49 from an existing 30-inch stub near the intersection of N.C. 49 and Main Street in Richfield to the end of an existing 30-inch line near the 
Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, at the intersection N.C. 49 and Old Airport Road. A portion of the water line will be constructed along Fisher Road, Moose Road, and N.C. 73 to avoid any major impact to existing development along N.C. 49.

Albemarle would pay for 25 percent of the $21 million water line and Concord and Kannapolis would equally split the remaining 75 percent of the cost.

Albemarle is looking for new customers for its water service after losing several industrial customers with the decline of North Carolina's textile industry over the last three decades.

Albemarle Mayor Elbert Whitley said he's concerned about future water needs and getting an increase in the city's allocation. Whitley said he thought Concord and Kannapolis should apply for an allocation from the Yadkin before going ahead with the project.

Engineering and city officials said the two Cabarrus County cities could not get an allocation for water until they have an intake agreement with Albemarle because otherwise they have no access to the water.

The proposed agreement would allow the two cities to buy water from Albemarle for $1.58 per 1,000 gallons, according to Concord city officials.

That's the lowest rate Albemarle offers, according to Ernest Borders, the city's utilities director.

"We're talking about reserving 5 million gallons a day of water," Borders said. "We can do that fairly easily. We have options for a future agreement of 10 million gallons per day. We wanted a flexible agreement. We don't want something so rigid we can't work with it. The agreement initially talks about 30 years with automatic extensions of 20 years."

Borders said the cities would open discussions about future water sales before Kannapolis and Concord reach 10 million daily.

"When we're approaching the 8 million gallon per day mark, we're going to start talking about what we've got to do as far as expansion," Borders said.

All three city councils must approve the agreement to build the water line with a vote. Padgett said that could happen as soon as June, allowing the design phase of the project to begin this summer.