After briefly delaying a sewer agreement with Clayton and Raleigh, Johnston County Commissioners have approved their part of the deal.
The agreement will allow Clayton to pump 1 million gallons per day to Raleigh’s Neuse River Treatment Plant. The town is building a pipeline to the plant, which is near the Wake-Johnston county line.
Johnston County had previously agreed to purchase capacity at Raleigh’s treatment plant but transferred that capacity to Clayton. By signing the agreement, the county acknowledges the transfer to Clayton and essentially removes itself from the deal.
But while the county’s approval was more of a formality, Commissioner Allen Mims asked last month to delay the board’s vote on the sewer agreement.
Mims, whose farm is in the path of another Clayton sewer project, said he wanted to make sure the town wasn’t “running roughshod” over neighbors in the path of the pipeline to Raleigh. Mims requested public records from the town and said he was going to talk to residents who had to give easements to their land.
At the commissioners’ meeting on Monday, Mims said residents who live near but outside of Clayton’s town limits didn’t understand why the town could take their land. They also felt they had no recourse, he said, as they can’t vote in town elections.
State law allows towns to forcibly acquire or use property for public projects, including sewer pipelines. Four easements for the Clayton-to-Raleigh pipeline went to the courts after negotiations between the town and property owners failed.
“I wish we could help the folks a little bit and get fair prices, but I really don’t see a way we can do anything,” said Mims, who did not vote in the board’s approval of the agreement.
Earlier this year, Mims refused the town’s offer of $5,300 for an easement across his land for a different sewer line along Sam’s Branch Creek.
Mims was the only landowner along that route to refuse the town’s offer. The Clayton Town Council has agreed to condemn his property and take his easement through the courts.
The amounts the town offers for easements are based on professional appraisals. Since 2012, Clayton has spent $170,000 to get easements from about 40 landowners who live along the Clayton-to-Raleigh pipeline route.
Clayton has been planning the pipeline to Raleigh for nearly a decade and originally agreed in 2007 to use space at the Neuse River plant.
In the mid-2000s, Johnston County also agreed to use space at Raleigh’s plant to serve development taking place on Pritchard Road. However, the county transferred its capacity at the Raleigh plant to Clayton, which was already building utility lines near Pritchard Road.
In addition to acknowledging the transfer of capacity to Clayton from Johnston County, the agreement signed Monday also tweaks the terms. It extends Clayton’s ability to pump sewage to the Neuse River plant through 2027. The amended agreement also acknowledges Raleigh’s modified fee structure, among other changes.
Clayton has paid Raleigh about $3.6 million already for the 1 million gallons of treatment capacity it plans to use at the city’s sewage plant. The 5-mile pipeline is estimated to cost $4 million.
The town is finalizing engineering for the project and freshening up permits that are applicable. The town plans to seek bids for construction in the fall.
At Monday’s meeting, Mims said he didn’t like that Johnston County had to be a party to the sewer agreement. He added that he thought it should be extended further than 2027.
But county attorney Jennifer Slusser assured Mims that the county’s signature was needed only to acknowledge the transfer to Clayton.
“With this agreement, Johnston County is getting out of any deal with Raleigh or Clayton, and all of that responsibility is being assigned to Clayton,” Slusser said. “We are wiping our hands of it and going away.”
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104