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Spring Hope candidate's water claims cloud facts

Posted on September 6, 2021

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Pritchard

Pritchard

SPRING HOPE — While Spring Hope’s water may be cloudy at times, could one mayoral candidate be clouding the truth on state-allocated money to help fix it?

After state Sen. Lisa Barnes announced during a June 23 town hall meeting that she had requested a $3.7 million state budget appropriation for the town of Spring Hope to help with water and sewer infrastructure needs, mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard began circulating statements that he was responsible for the funds being obtained, going so far as to say “This was accomplished in an unprecedented record time. Nothing has ever been added to the state’s budget for any small town this fast.”

However, checking with all sources involved show that while Pritchard did reach out to Barnes, he was not the first, nor was he the reason the money was requested.

CLICK HERE to read emails about the state budget request posted with this story on the Southern Nash News website.

Pritchard claims that the money was added to Senate Bill 105 on June 22, the same day the Senate Appropriations and Base Budget Committee took up the full bill. He also claims the money was added only after he sent an email and made numerous phone calls to Barnes asking for emergency help on June 17.

In an Aug. 25 Facebook post, town commissioner candidate Eric Gainey asked Pritchard about his role and whether the change could have just been a matter of timing.

“Your post is a hypothetical, my is post factual,” Pritchard wrote. “What you are saying is your opinion. This version, this specific date, this link that Anna sent me, is a result of the addition of Spring Hope’s line item made by Senator Barnes. Which was a direct result of efforts made by residents and myself the prior week.”

Gainey was correct and Pritchard was only somewhat correct. While the June 22 proposed committee substitute was in fact the first time the money appeared as Pritchard claims, it was also the first time any money for the entire state budget showed up. Prior to that date, the budget was a simple two-page bill filed as a placeholder for the legislation.

Where Pritchard’s statements run into issues of not being factual are the dates that requests were made as well as who made them.

Pritchard claimed that his June 17 email and subsequent phone calls to Barnes’ office resulted in the money being added in what he wrote “was accomplished in an unprecedented record time.”

Emails between town officials and both Barnes and state Rep. James Gailliard, however, paint a very different picture of how the funds became available.

Public records requests show that the requests for help started as early as February in the budget process, and Barnes requested the money weeks before Pritchard’s June 17 email was sent.

Commissioner Prudence Wilkins, who is also running for the mayor’s seat, contacted Gailliard on Feb. 20 to arrange a time for Gailliard to speak with Wilkins and former Town Manager Jae Kim about the water issues and what assistance might be available to Spring Hope as well as the sidewalk conditions around the school, an item that had drawn concerns from several parents.

The meeting took place at 1:30 p.m. March 19, the earliest Gailliard was available, at Spring Hope Town Hall.

In the meeting, Galliard suggested that Kim get the needed figures together for water and sewer needs and reach out to Barnes, as this year’s budget bill was originating in the Senate and had not yet passed over to the House of Representatives.

Wilkins then asked Kim to reach out to Stocks Engineering so the company could provide an estimate of needed funds, then contact Barnes’ office for assistance. Kim told Wilkins he would reach out to Stocks Engineering that day, but that a final number would take some time to compile.

On May 11, Spring Hope experienced an 8-inch water main break underneath Nash Street that was severe enough to drain both of the town’s water towers. Parts of the town went without water for three days.

On May 18, Barnes contacted Commissioner Drew Griffin after receiving a call from Nash County resident Ann Daniel. Griffin immediately contacted Kim seeking an update and asked him to expedite the estimate for possible state assistance.

At 8:47 a.m. May 20, Kim sent a detailed list of high-priority items he and Kevin Varnell of Stocks Engineering compiled. The work carried a price tag upwards of $3.9 million.

Roughly an hour later, at 9:59 a.m., Barnes responded, “I am happy to help. I have made a budget request for the Town’s needs.”

Barnes made her budget request almost a full month before her office received Pritchard’s June 17 email regarding water needs. While Pritchard’s claim that Ann Daniel contacted Barnes first after the water main break is accurate, the timeline for the funds being requested is not.

The fund request was sent to budget writers on May 20 for inclusion in the proposed committee substitute the Senate Appropriations Committee staff was assembling. The draft was released on June 22.

General Assembly staffers said the budget legislation considered on June 22 was written prior to the day it was considered in committee.

“The important piece to remember is the goal was accomplished (not who accomplished it),” Barnes wrote in an email to the Southern Nash News. “Teamwork is better than causing division.”

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