Aqua N.C. president talks with local customers

Private water service customers gathered in the Mint Hill Town Hall last Friday to hear from Aqua North Carolina president Tom Roberts regarding water quality.  Residents of Ashe Plantation have recently become vocal about a problem they say is decades old.

Meeting organizers invited Jeff Tarte, recently elected to the N.C. State Senate, N.C. Representative Bill Brawley from Mecklenburg County and member of the Public Utilities Committee in the House, and N.C. Public Utilities staff member David Furr, and Roberts had with him two Aqua North Carolina representatives with knowledge of the problems.

Tarte mediated the conversation and explained the focus of the conversation was on water quality, although he acknowledged that local customers were also upset about customer service and rates.  He allowed Aqua to explain what they are doing with Ashe Plantation’s wells, and followed that with some questions from residents.

“We already know what the problems are, so what we’re hoping to hear is what Aqua North Carolina is doing to remedy the situation,” said Tarte.

“One of the primary things that I do is meet with customers.  If I’m invited I will come.  Mrs. Decker and I have had a number of conversations, and I’m happy to be here tonight to have you hear from us,” said Roberts.  “We realize we’ll have to talk about some history, but what we’d like to do is look forward and talk about the future and where we think we’re going from our point of view.”

The Aqua representatives explained that an Ashe Plantation well experienced a malfunction earlier this summer, which caused a disruption in filter performance.  After the well was back in service, problems continued due to accumulated mineral deposits.  Aqua cleaned, flushed, and tested the water storage tank and flushed the distribution system.

To avoid future water quality problems, the company is monitoring water color leaving the filters by having installed sensors that will send an alarm and shut down the well.

The water company also ensured its customers that water is routinely tested and meets state and federal drinking water standards.

Aqua representative Michael Melton offered specific numbers regarding water quality and contaminates, though the customers said the numbers had no context or meaning to them.

A reoccurring topic during the conversation was the affect of bad press on the neighborhood.  Homeowners said realtors are avoiding the neighborhood, which is an “economic opportunity cost.”  Roberts responded saying he doesn’t “have that power over the press,” and recommended real estate agents call Aqua.  He also said he would like to talk with them.

“What is it going to take to get our water system up to a Charlotte quality water system so that it will attract new homeowners into the community and displace everything that we’ve seen in the news already about the water quality?  They’ve gone on the news already and said how poor the water quality was.  I think that the water needs to be fixed correctly today and then go back on the news and say how it was fixed and put together these bottles with clean water.  But if you can’t produce bottles with clean water then everything you say tonight is not going to mean anything,” said a customer.

“We love to do success stories, too,” said Roberts.  He suggested having the media cover the solution to the problem.

“We need a success story,” the customer responded.

Another customer said he has lived in Ashe Plantation for 24 years and has never had clean water.

“You’re not going to fix that well.  You either need to drill another well or let us have city water.  I know that’s your call,” he said.

“The technology exists for us to fix that well,” said Roberts.

Ashe Plantation homeowners’ association president Sharon Decker said she would like to have another meeting with Aqua to address other issues like rates.  She knows Aqua is willing to meet with them again.

“We appreciate everything the town of Mint Hill has done for us,” said Decker.  She was happy to hear about the resolution the town passed to ensure good water quality and service, and she appreciated being able to meet at the town hall.

“This is an inconvenience; it’s a health issue,” said Ashe Plantation homeowner Janis Barnett.  “They’ve done a good job of giving us more information than they had before, they told us what they’re doing to get that well back.”  She said she’s feeling hopeful about the situation.

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Local histories for sale at historical society

The Mint Hill Historical Society provides hands-on, environmental learning that includes an entire village of restoration. What visitors may not know is that it also offers reading materials for sale. Residents and visitors inspired by historical learning at the society can continue their education on their own time through books on local history.

The Presbyterian Gathering on Clear Creek by Russell Martin Kerr and Over Flow on Clear Creek are two books for sale through the historical society that focus on the Mint Hill area. The Presbyterian Gathering focuses on the founding of Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in the eighteenth century and is for sale for $25.

Over Flow on Clear Creek is a genealogy of descendants of James Flow (1821-1877) and David Flough (ca 1740-1792) of Mecklenburg County. It was written by Ken Flowe and Gail Flowe Honeycutt and is for sale for $55 at the historical society.

Part of the Images of America Series, the Mint Hill picture book provides citizens with a history recorded through photographs. The Mint Hill Historical Society published the book in honor of its twentieth anniversary. It can be purchased at the society or its website at www.minthillhistory.com/Society_News.cfm. For more information about the Mint Hill Historical Society and its literature, call 704-573-0726.

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Analyzing charitable giving

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition recently aired a story about a report published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy regarding the geography of charitable donations.  Morning Edition looked at the data on a national level and found that lower-income Americans donate a larger percentage of their money than do the wealthy.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy explained that it obtained tax records from the IRS for 2008 and looked at charitable claims.  They only looked at data from households making $50,000 or more that year.  This study does not give the most accurate picture of charitable giving, but it can show general patterns of giving, both economically and geographically.

The top three most charitable states are Utah, D.C., and Mississippi, and the three lowest are Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  The study provides data by nation, state, and zip code.  So where does Mint Hill stand?

The zip code 28227 shows a total contribution of $23.6 million in 2008.  The median income was $49,888, and the median contribution was $3,144, meaning the percentage of giving per household was 6.3.  Mecklenburg County was at 6.7 percent, North Carolina was 5.9 percent (ranked ninth nationally), and the nation was 4.7 percent.

The study provides data for 28227 by income level as well, and the numbers support Morning Edition’s story about lower-income households donating a larger percentage.  Mint Hill households making $50,000-99,999 a year donated 7.6 percent of their income; those in the $100,000-199,999 range donated 5.7 percent; and those making $200,000 or more donated 5.8 percent.

Mint Hill’s neighbors in Matthews (zip code 28105) gave six percent of their income and a total 2008 contribution of $31.8 million.  Indian Trail (28079) gave 5.1 percent.

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Democracy in action: the neighborhood Aqua meeting

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Aqua North Carolina customers met with politicians last Friday to voice their concerns about the private water company’s practices.  Sharon Decker, homeowner association president for Ashe Plantation, located on 218, hosted the meeting at the Olde Sycamore Golf Plantation clubhouse.

Residents of Mint Hill, Charlotte, Union County, and Huntersville were present.  John Aneralla and Jeff Tarte came to listen to their concerns and provide information. Katie Hicks from Clean Water for North Carolina also attended.  Decker said the president of Aqua wanted to attend the meeting, but the HOA board decided the focus of Friday’s meeting was talking with the politicians.  The president has been invited to the next meeting of the neighborhoods sometime in September. Continue reading

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Commissioners to discuss saving Bain building

Commissioners raised concerns over the fate of Bain Elementary School’s auditorium at last Thursday’s meeting.  The three present commissioners made a quorum in the absence of Mayor Ted Biggers and Commissioner Mickey Ellington.

An environmental and structural study was done on Bain’s auditorium and found asbestos and lead based paints, as well as significant structural problems.  The Board is interested in saving the building as a piece of Mint Hill’s history, and may find help through the Mint Hill Historical Society and the Department of Cultural Resources.  This issue may generate public interest, and with the absence of the mayor and a commissioner, it was deferred until the next meeting scheduled for August 16. Continue reading

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CMS’s new superintendent visits Independence

Charlotte Mecklenburg School’s new superintendent, Heath Morrison, visited Independence High School Monday.  Morrison met with principal Amy Dellinger, faculty, transportation staff, and students.

“His primary goal was to get a feel for the culture and the organization of summer school,” said Dellinger.  Independence High School holds summer school for the district, serving students and teachers from Providence, East Mecklenburg, and Butler High Schools.

Morrison entered classrooms and spoke with students about the purpose of their summer school enrolment, graduation plans, and the next steps after graduation.

Dellinger and Morrison had some informal conversations about what is working well for Independence.  They will have a more Independence-focused conversation later in the year to discuss teachers, students, and the culture of the school.

“We were certainly glad to have him here,” said Dellinger.

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