07/23/08 — Faison says 'no' to request to give up ETJ claim

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Faison says 'no' to request to give up ETJ claim

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 23, 2008 1:48 PM

FAISON -- Officials in this small Duplin County town say they have no intention of relinquishing their extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) control over the nearby Sampson County site where a Pennsylvania company wants to build a $200 million biomass-fired power plant.

Nor, they say, is the town surrendering its water/sewer system that serves residents near the site.

"They (Sampson County and Fibrowatt) have asked us if we are willing to relinquish our (ETJ) control," Faison Mayor Elmer Flake said. "We are not."

Negotiations between the three parties have been ongoing for several weeks in closed-door meetings -- including two just this past week.

The first was on Monday and the second was held Wednesday. Wednesday's meeting was between Faison officials and a Sampson County delegation, Flake said.

Wording in the town's last offer had been misinterpreted as indicating that Faison was breaking off negotiations, he said.

"We aren't. We are still positive about it and that we can iron out our differences," Flake said.

The town has prepared another counteroffer. However, Flake said he wanted his entire board to meet and for commissioners to give it "their blessing" before it is presented.

Flake said he could not comment on the specifics of the negotiations.

Fibrowatt announced its plans in April to build the facility near N.C. 403 and Interstate 40 less than three miles from Faison. The company also had considered Duplin County, but ran into opposition because it burns poultry litter. Sampson County has promised some $2.5 million in property tax breaks for the plant that is expected to create about 100 jobs.

About 90 percent of the site falls within Faison's ETJ.

At the request of Fibrowatt, Sampson County commissioners approved a resolution asking Faison to surrender control of the area.

"The reason being for Fibrowatt to get financing lined up they felt like it would be better to deal with one zoning authority and not two," Flake said.

Faison extended its ETJ to the area in the early 1990s after residents along the Eldon Thornton Road started a drive to obtain water and sewer. At that time Sampson County did not offer those services -- it still doesn't -- in the area and had no immediate plans to do so.

The residents contacted a Kenansville engineer who in turn met with the Faison Town Board about the possibility of the town providing the services. A grant was obtained to run water and sewer to the area.

There are currently 18 homes in the areas being served by the Faison water/sewer system.

"The Town of Faison and Sampson County agreed that we could go out one-half mile north and south of N.C. 403 including the interchange," Flake said.

Sampson County's nearest water line is still more than a mile away.

Faison has been asked to allows its system to be consolidated with the Sampson system.

How much, if anything, Sampson County would have paid Faison has not been discussed since that never was an option as far as the town is concerned, Flake said.

"We are not going to give up our system," he said. "We do not want to lose our 18 customers."

Flake said Faison has not been given any indication of the volume of water and sewer the plant would require.

"We would like to supply the water and sewer to the plant," he said.

The system is separate from the town's main system. It has pumps, however larger pumps might be needed to service the plant, he said.

He said concerns had been expressed that there would be no backup if the Faison system failed. However, Flake said that the countywide Duplin water system was close enough that the town could tie into it and use it as a backup.

"I feel like we will be able to handle the sewer as well," he said.

Flake said the town is interested in seeing growth in the area. However, he said he isn't sure if Fibrowatt would encourage or discourage development.

"We would love to see the intersection develop since it is less than three miles from Faison," he said. "Right now we are sitting and waiting."