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Spring Hope water woes spark political interest

Posted on June 8, 2021

Updated on June 13, 2021

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lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

Pritchard

Pritchard

SPRING HOPE — Folks packed town hall on June 7 to question officials about recent water outages, with one outspoken new resident revealing political aspirations.

Kyle Pritchard, who recently purchased a home on East Nash Street, voiced his concerns about what he called the town’s crumbling water system infrastructure. Pritchard ended his public comments by asking the gathered crowd to vote in November. 

When asked after the meeting whether he intended to run for town office, Pritchard said “no,” then changed his answer to “I don’t know.” Late last week, he formally announced his intent to run for mayor. That post and three Board of Commissioners seats are up for election this year.

RELATED STORY: Spring Hope newcomer to run for mayor 

Pritchard made contradictory statements about the condition of his water during the meeting, in an interview with this newspaper afterwards and with a television news reporter earlier in the day. 

Pritchard told the town board that he has to bathe his young daughter in brown water. Later in his public comments, he said he fears there are carcinogens in the water.

When asked after the meeting why he bathes his child in water he thinks might contain cancer-causing agents, Pritchard said he was doing that before he had a water filtration system installed. However, in an interview with Raleigh-based CBS affiliate WNCN Channel 17, Pritchard complained about brown water and having to bathe in the water. He showed brownish water coming out of his kitchen tap that day — even with the filtration system installed.

“We go to run the bathwater for our daughter, and it’s brown. We wash our dishes and the water is brown. We wash our clothes and the water is brown,” Pritchard told CBS 17.

The East Nash Street house built in 1950 has no record of permits to replace water pipes, according to a check with staff at Nash County Building Inspections. So it’s difficult to say whether it’s the town’s aging system or the house’s old pipes that’s causing any water discoloration.

The town water is safe and has passed state testing, said Tracy Miller, regional manager with Envirolink, the company contracted to handle the town’s public works.

An anonymous social media page demanding fixes to the town’s water system popped up May 28. Pritchard’s town meeting speech mirrored much of what had been posted anonymously. He denied afterwards that he’s the source of the anonymous posts and suggested it could be Ethan Vester.

Vester, president of the Spring Hope Chamber of Commerce, said that’s preposterous. He lives in Bailey and has been unaffected by Spring Hope’s water issues, plus it’s his job to promote businesses in town, not stir the pot.

Town residents have experienced low water pressure in the past month and went three days without water when a main line broke in mid-May.

Mayor Buddy Gwaltney said the town’s recent water troubles were unusual and town staff and Envirolink employees have been working to fix the problems, but a total replacement of the system built decades ago would likely mean a property tax hike.

In an extra step, Gwaltney took time to allow every resident in attendance to voice opinions and ask questions, which stretched the meeting past two hours.

Resident Robin Koricanek asked why comments had been disabled on the town’s Facebook page. She said the town was silencing opposition.

Town Manager Jae Kim said comments had been turned off due to unconstructive criticism and misinformation.

Residents said they wanted to interact directly with Envirolink employees. Gwaltney said he would set up a town hall-style meeting. A date wasn’t specified.

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