Police may be called to monitor next H2G0 meeting

LELAND, NC (WECT) - Some elected officials in Brunswick County may ask for police to monitor their first public meeting since a very close election last week.

H2G0 Commissioner Jeff Gerken says he's concerned over some angry posts he's seen online, written by people upset over the outcome of the election. Six candidates were vying for three seats on the H2G0 utility authority. They were divided over the construction of a controversial $35 million reverse osmosis plant.

The vote was close; the winner and loser were decided by just 18 votes. The election results shifted the balance of power on the board with those opposed to the RO plant set to take control of the board next month.

One resident in the Compass Point neighborhood suggested banding together at the upcoming H2G0 meeting on Nov. 28.

"This is way too important to ignore. Who would want to drink dirty water or have to buy bottled water forever? Not an option, either! We have to reverse this decision NOW!" the resident posted.

Another resident went so far as to question the outcome of the election, and dozens of other residents posted concerns on the Nextdoor platform.

"I'm not sure exactly what point they are trying to make. I'm not sure if they want to redo the election, which is not going to happen. I don't know if they want to intimidate the three of us to change our opinion about the plant. I'm not clear as to exactly what they want, but the tone of the conversation on Nextdoor has been, in my opinion, very threatening," Gerken explained of his safety concerns for the upcoming meeting.

Meanwhile, Gerken and fellow opponents of the plant are trying to make sure no more money is spent to build a plant they plan to cancel. Opponents had asked H2G0 to slow the spending on the plant until after the election, but in August, H2G0 awarded another $5 million in new contracts toward the completion of the plant.

Gerken said he asked H2G0 Executive Director Bob Walker for cancellation clauses to be added to those contracts, to no avail.

"It's hard to tell exactly how much money is already down the drain," Gerken said. "Mr. Walker talks about having the potential to lose $14 million, but the way I read it, only $7 or 8 million has actually been expended so far. And if he would step in right now and tell the other companies that have been contracted for the other work that has been contracted to stop, then the figure would not be anywhere near $14 million."

Bob Walker said $6.2 million has been spent toward completion of the RO plant. Bulldozers and work crews were on site doing construction at the site of the RO plant on Monday, and H2G0 has signed contracts for another $8 million worth of work and equipment.

"It's very possible H2GO could be on the hook for the nearly $8 million for those contracts awarded and in progress should the project be canceled – that would be a question for legal should that happen," Walker wrote in an email.

When the contracts were approved in a 3-2 vote months before the election, Gerken accused those who voted to move forward with construction of the plant of being reckless with customers' money, trying to force the issue regardless of who won in November.

"Obviously, they wanted to have as much money spent as possible so they could then say to our customers, "'Gee, we've already spent $14 million. Wouldn't it be a shame to throw that away?'" Gerken said.

"Our opinion is, it won't be the three of us who will have wasted that money. It is the board members who voted to sign those contacts without having approval from the local government commission to spend the money. They're the ones who wasted the money."

The Brunswick County Board of Elections is planning to do a discretionary recount of this race and three other close races. Incumbent and reverse osmosis advocate Carl Antos only lost his seat on the H2GO board by 18 votes.

Gerken did not think there were enough provisional ballots cast in this race to change the election results.

Elections officials will also recount the ballots for Boiling Spring Lakes Commissioner, Southport Mayor and Sunset Beach Councilman.

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