By Kevin Cooley

Mayor, Town of Lake Lure

 

Every year in late January or early February, the Lake Lure Town Council and senior staff conduct a planning workshop. The purposes of the workshop are to:

  1. Assess what’s been accomplished relative to the goals set for the ongoing administrative year that runs from July 1st to June 30th
  2. Adjust the focus and priorities for the remainder of the year based on changing needs and conditions
  3. Identify goals and priorities for the next year which will “drive” the annual budget process. As such, the workshop is the official “kick-off” of the 5-month budget process.

Being my first such workshop as Lake Lure’s Mayor, I approached this session with serious apprehension wondering whether we could cover in a meaningful and productive manner the far-reaching agenda of important planning topics, reports and outputs that our Town Manager had packed into this session.

Not unlike other apprehensive experiences I’ve had so far in my first two months as a “rookie” mayor, I felt this one also had a very positive outcome, thanks to the good preparation and efficient pace by our Town Manager and staff who provided appropriate background information in a succinct format. Also, kudos to our Town Council members for are honoring our mutual pledge to work diligently, efficiently and cooperatively together and with Town staff to do what’s best for our Town and its citizens.

My experience with planning sessions like this one is that beyond the benefits of whatever decisions and plans result from the session, a well-executed meeting results in getting the “team” in sync and all members rowing together in the same direction. Did we realize these “potential” benefits from this session? I definitely think so. However, time will tell as we move forward to manage and govern. If we’ve been successful – we – but more importantly, the citizens of Lake Lure will benefit.

So what were some of the major issues and outcomes of this session and how did Town Council decide to proceed? Here are three that I consider to be noteworthy:

  1. Lake Lure Beach, Marina and Boat Tour Operating Concession Agreement: after a 17-month period of discussion, appointment of a special ad hoc citizen selection committee and receipt of competitive proposals from interested concession operating businesses, the Town Council approved a negotiated Concession Agreement with Lake Lure Tours, the successful bidder. This agreement will continue the historically successful privatized-operation of these concessions by Lake Lure Tours for an initial term of 5-years. With satisfactory performance, the term will be extended another five years. This agreement affords significant additional benefits to the Town vs. the prior agreement, including an increased revenue-sharing percentage paid to the Town and free, daytime public access to the beach from Labor Day to Memorial Day. However, the beach will be unattended and access to the lake from the beach will be prohibited-restricted during this off-season, open access period.
  2. Lake Lure Dam and Hydroelectric Station Improvements: based on the Phase II Dam Safety Inspection Report presentation by Dr. Dan Marks, the Town Council reaffirmed its commitment to move forward immediately and expeditiously on the report’s recommended 4-5 year plan to conduct urgently needed maintenance and repairs to the dam. Dr. Marks estimated the cost to implement the prescribed maintenance and repairs will be approximately $4.5 to $5 million. When completed, in tandem with a diligent program of 5-year inspections, routine maintenance and repairs, he expects our dam will last another 50 years. More details about this critical study and what we will be doing to address issues at the dam can be found in a companion article published in this issue of the Mountain Breeze and posted on the Town’s website. Our next steps will be to collaborate with the NC Dam Inspection Engineer in regards to Dr. Marks’ investigations, findings and recommendations to: confirm the report’s validity and efficacy in identifying the dam’s issues and what needs to be done to address them, and to identify potential funding sources and methods to pay for the repairs.
  3. Sewage Collection and Treatment Systems Replacement: There’s little to no disagreement by anyone who’s familiar with Lake Lure’s 80+ year old sewer collection system and our existing, malfunctioning sewage treatment plant that these systems are in dire need of replacement. Continued infiltration of lake water into the portion of the collection system that runs in and under the lake routinely doubles the normal domestic sewage flow. In fact, lake water infiltration can and has mushroomed to as much as 4 to 5 times the normal domestic sewage flow when submerged system breaks occur, often taking weeks to find and fix. Fixing the collection system problem is truly putting “the horse before the cart.” Consequently, the Town has put the Greenline Project on hold as we investigate how to address the collection system problem, including taking a fresh look at whether replacing the existing sewage treatment plant with a new “package” treatment plant might be a better, more cost-effective, interim (or permanent) solution to our treatment system problem. The Town’s wastewater consultants, Brown Engineering, have been assessing options to replace the existing sewage collection system and sewage treatment plant. They identified a low-pressure sewage collection system (located outside the lake) as the best option to replace our existing gravity collection system. They presented capital cost and net annual income/expense projections for constructing and operating a new low-pressure collection system and package treatment plant. Town Council directed the Town Manager to work with the Utility Advisory Board and the consultant to further develop and refine the low-pressure collection and package treatment system alternative. The next step forward is for the Town and its consultants to meet with state officials to discuss this alternative further.

Looking forward, 2018-2019, will be a challenging and busy time for our Town as we revitalize our public infrastructure and make the community an even better place in which to live, work, play, and visit.

Let me know what you think. Send me an email: mayorcooley@townoflakelure.com .