Local News

Water Crisis Divides Chatham County Voters

Posted August 2, 2004

— An election snafu over water is dividing some voters in Chatham County.

For the past 10 years at Silk Hope School, students eaten with plastic utensils and on paper plates. They also have been asked to conserve water at all times, even using bottled water.

Silk Hope School is one of the last schools in the area that uses well water. The well is running dry.

"In a school setting, there are enough things to worry about, and you don't want water to be one of those things that you do have to address," said Robert Tharp, principal of Silk Hope School.

County officials were hoping a $9 million bond for a new water line to Jordan Lake would be the answer. The referendum failed in the July 20 election.

Some residents claimed there was a problem.

Residents said there were two other water-bond referendums for other parts of the county. Each was on a separate paper ballot. Some residents argued there was confusion in some precincts about which voters should get the proper ballot.

"We had some areas and townships where they were clearly laid out and some places where they were not," said Dawn Stumpf, of the Chatham County Board of Elections.

Some voters claimed they were not offered a water-bond referendum ballot and protested the election results.

The Chatham County Board of Elections will hold a preliminary hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday to determine if the protest has any merit. If it does, they will hold a public hearing to determine whether to ask the state Board of Elections to put the issue on the November ballot.

County commissioners have a temporary solution to Silk Hope School's problem in the works. They plan to build a water line from the school to Siler City, but that plan is expected to take a year.

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