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Waynesville wins concessions in Junaluska water negotiations

Waynesville officials have finally signed an agreement with the Junaluska Sanitary District that marries the two entities for 10 more years of water service.

The contract had been in talks for several months and formalizes the relationship between the town and its largest customer, who buys water from the town wholesale and resells to its own customers, which include heavy hitters such as the hospital, Tuscola High School and Haywood Community College.

For the next 10 years, JSD has agreed to buy at least 200,000 gallons of water from the town each day, and no more than 750,000. The town, in turn, has agreed that the district doesn’t have to ask permission before selling to new customers.

Negotiations have centered around usage numbers — JSD was originally gunning for very low minimum and sky-high maximum limits — and Waynesville’s request that they grant permission before new customers hook on.

Part of the urgency for JSD was a $500,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Center that wouldn’t be doled out until a contract was in place, ensuring the flow of water between the town and the district.

On Waynesville’s side of the negotiating table, the desire for a contract was more philosophical than concrete. Without a contract, they could have been put in the tight spot of either losing their largest customer — a real revenue killer — after dropping significant investments on infrastructure for JSD or unwittingly becoming a regional water supplier, should the district decide to start selling water on to larger and larger areas without notifying the town.

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Fred Baker, the town’s public works director, told aldermen last month that, although their relationship with JSD has always been cordial and mutually beneficial, keeping an eye on the town’s water is a wise strategy.

“Having plans and talking about future water supply is a good thing to do, and this is just the start,” said Baker.

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