County commissioners consider fracking concerns, Sandhills requests

Abby Cavenaugh

February 6, 2014

The Anson County Board of Commissioners held a busy meeting Tuesday night.

After the agenda was approved, the commissioners heard from Victoria Whitt, who presented two requests on behalf of Sandhills Center. “Neither involve county funding,” she pointed out.

The first of the requests was for the commissioners to give their approval to Sandhills Center’s business plan. North Carolina general statutes require that all LMEs provide detailed information on how they will meet state standards for ensuring quality mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services. Whitt presented the center’s plan, which consists of 10 initiatives, including increasing access of persons with mental illness to reside in the least restrictive residential setting possible, to decrease emergency room wait times, to place youth closer to home, and to assure that a quality provider network is in place, among others. Each county represented by the Sandhills Center must approve the plan, Whitt said.

The second request was for the commissioners to approve a resolution of support for Sandhills Center to achieve what’s called substantial equivalent status. “Basically, it allows us to control our own human resources,” Whitt explained. The center currently has to wait for state approval before making any new hires.

The commissioners unanimously approved both requests.

Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, Denise Lee and Cary Rodgers made a presentation on behalf of Pee Dee W.A.L.L. focusing on the dangers of exploration and production waste that may result if fracking is allowed in Anson County.

Rodgers gave a PowerPoint presentation that detailed the fracking process and how the chemicals used in the process are disposed of. Rodgers said that in other fracking sites in the U.S., the waste, called E&P waste, is disposed of in pits on site or in landfills.

“Normally, if you have hazardous waste, you have to take precautions,” Rodgers said, “but fracking companies get a free pass.”

He went on to explain that fracking companies usually mix the sludge with sawdust and dump it at landfills. “We want to make sure… we don’t become a dumping ground for E&P.”

Rodgers also played a short video clip in which the CEO of Waste Connections, which operates the Anson County Landfill, stated that Waste Connections is looking to grow the E&P portion of its business, and has also asked the commissioners to expand the county’s landfill.

“This is depressing,” Commission Chair Anna Baucom said. “The state and federal government are allowing this.”

County Attorney Scott Forbes asked whether or not there is any evidence that Waste Connections has brought E&P waste in to the landfill and labeled it as something else. Rodgers replied that he was working on gathering evidence as to whether or not that has happened. Baucom asked that Forbes and County Manager Lawrence Gatewood look into the situation and report back.

Budget priorities set

As part of his monthly report to the commissioners, County Manager Gatewood shared his priorities for the next fiscal year budget.

First, Gatewood said there would be no change in the 76.7 cent tax rate. He also hopes to maintain a healthy fund balance of at least 20 percent of the total budget. The county will also continue to fully pay for employees’ health insurance, as well as provide a 2.5 percent cost of living increase and a 3-percent contribution to employees’ 401(k) plans.

Gatewood also defined the county’s capital priorities for the next year, which include the purchase of a new ambulance and beginning studies for new locations for Anson County Transportation Services, Department of Social Services, Elderly Services and the Health Department. He also hopes to begin the design process for the county’s new agri-civic center in 2014-15.

Other Business

In other business at the February meeting, the commissioners:

- heard from Kyle Eudy and Nancy Bryant with the Upper Pee Dee Farm & Food Council, who gave an update on the organization to the board and also asked the commissioners to consider providing $1,000 toward a start-up fund to help the UPFFC hire a part-time director. Current director Nancy Bryant is working unpaid and plans to retire in June.

- unanimously approved the transfer of a manufacturer’s statement on modular units from the county to the Anson County School System.

- changed their May meeting date to May 12, due to a conflict with Primary Day.

- unanimously approved the sale of timber on two parcels on Anson High School Road to Troy Lumber Company for $288,333.

- unanimously approved its consent agenda, which included the purchase of the new animal shelter and reimbursement to the 911 Fund.

- appointed Denise Beachum, Anne Covington Leary and Lewis Evans to the Tourism Development Authority board. Baucom also asked that a representative from the TDA attend the commissioners’ next meeting to update them.

- discussed deteriorating road conditions near Hightower Road. Gatewood said he will check into the matter and report back at the next meeting.

The commissioners will next meet at 6 p.m. on March 4 at the Anson County Government Center.