Guilford County and three towns in the Northwest part of the county – Stokesdale, Oak Ridge and Summerfield – are in talks to determine the next steps for a proposed project to bring a new municipal water system to those towns. One interesting part of the equation is that the decision of each town could be tightly connected to what the other towns do: If all three OK the project, the price is lower for each; conversely, the project might not be feasible for one town on its own.

Summerfield Town Councilmember Dena Barnes said this week that it’s hard, at this point, to read which way the towns are leaning.

“My understanding is that, if we do it together, it will cost less,” Barnes said. “If we’re not sharing costs, that could make it more expensive and change what our decision would be.”

If all three towns go in together, the total price tag for infrastructure is still high: It’s estimated at just north of $50 million.

All of the towns have expressed some interest in having a water system to address the problem of contaminated wells and to allow for more development.

According to Barnes, one needed benefit for Summerfield would be an ample water supply for fire response. She added that some housing developments in Summerfield with significant density could benefit from a municipal water system.

Barnes said some key questions to be decided in Summerfield are – if the town does go along with a water system – where the water lines should go and whether to construct an elevated water tower.

Guilford County is the fourth player in the mix, and County Commissioner Justin Conrad who represents much of the county’s Northwest, said its too early to tell which way the towns will decide.

“My position is that I’m going to be an advocate for what the towns want,” Conrad said. “I think a lot of it is going to come down to the cost and scope – and the help from the state.”

Conrad also said it’s conceivable that one or two towns may move ahead on their own.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all or nothing,” he said.

He added that he would support a single town going it alone if one town decided to do so.

Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing, who oversaw a major water system implementation in Brunswick County before he became Guilford County’s manager in 2013, has been central in the talks. Barnes said this week that the county is lucky to have Lawing in the mix given his extensive experience in this regard.