Two commissioners, two councilmen and a public official to be named later, that’s the makeup of the newly formed Western Johnston Regional Water and Sewer Authority.
Johnston County and the Town of Clayton created the authority over the summer and held its first organizational meeting this week, electing Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod as chairman and retiring County Commissioner Tony Braswell as vice chairman. The new governmental entity exists to operate and shoulder debt from the soon-to-be-built wastewater pre-treatment plant required by the $1.8 billion Novo Nordisk expansion.
“We in Clayton are pretty excited about this,” McLeod said. “It opens up a tremendous amount of opportunity for us in Clayton and Johnston County, in partnership. Not to say there aren’t tremendous hurdles we’re going to have to work through as members of this authority and moving this thing forward. I will say ... I know Clayton and Johnston County have a true partnership with that RTZ zone. I think we’re off and running to a good thing.”
By RTZ, McLeod was referring to the pharma-heavy industrial corridor anchored by Novo and Grifols. The industries are exempt from annexation by Clayton or any other town. In exchange, they support the Johnston County Workforce Development Center.
Since Novo Nordisk’s announcement in August 2015 that it would produce a new insulin pill in Clayton, local leaders have pointed to the pretreatment plant as part of the reason Johnston won the project. The plant will treat the concentrated wastewater left over from the drug-manufacturing process before it joins the rest of the county’s sewer system. Diluting the wastewater in this way makes Clayton competitive with the larger treatment plants in bigger cities.
Estimates over the summer put the project at upward of $20 million, $4 million of which will come from a Gold Leaf Foundation grant.
The authority will draw on resources from both Johnston and Clayton, with town attorney Katherine Ross and county attorney Jennifer Slusser serving as counsel. Johnston public works director Chandra Coats, Clayton public utilities director Tim Simpson and Clayton finance director Robert McKie will all serve on an operations committee, and Clayton town clerk Kimberly Moffett will serve as secretary.
A town and county representative on the authority will each serve a one-year term, another town and county representative will serve two-year terms, and then an authority board member jointly chosen by Clayton and Johnston will serve a three-year term. After the first three years of the authority, all members will serve three-year stints on the board.
Braswell noted that he and DeVan Barbour are not long for the county’s board of commissioners, each retiring next month, likely meaning they’re also not long for the authority board.
“Certainly, DeVan and I don’t mind serving, but if it’s the intent of the new board of commissioners to have their own members on this board, that’s certainly OK and fine too,” Braswell said.
Ross anticipated the county seats on the authority being swapped out fairly quickly, but she said the authority needed to be formed sooner rather than later.
“For organization reasons, it was important that we go ahead,” Ross said.
Slusser noted that a change might not even be necessary, that the bylaws don’t specify the members be council members or commissioners, just appointed by those respective bodies.
“The way (the) bylaws are drafted, it does not require members of the authority be sitting commissioners or council people,” Slusser said. “However ... should either board decide they want someone else to serve, they could make those replacements.”
The authority will meet quarterly but potentially more often in the beginning, Ross said. It will draft a 10-year capital-improvements plan that it must update every three years.