Town commissioners discuss waiving tap fees
by Meghann Evans
At a meeting last week, members of the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners discussed a proposal to waive tap fees for customers who tie into the water and sewer system by June 30, 2013.
Noting some pros and cons to the proposal, the commissioners decided to table the item until further information could be brought before the board. Town Manager Byron Ellis was out of town so a few items were tabled until the next meeting when he would be present to answer any questions raised.
As explained by Ellis in an email, when the town’s water and sewer ordinance was adopted in 2005, all in-town residences and businesses were required to be tied into the system within 10 years. All of those who are required to be tied-in and have not done so yet are charged an availability fee which equals what their minimum bill would be, Ellis said.
The current tap fees are $800 each for water and sewer, and the purpose of the proposal was “to encourage all potential water / sewer customers to tie into the system and to ease the financial burden of the upgrade” before the 2015 deadline, according to the agenda packet.
The board members asked several questions that they said needed to be answered before they could make a decision. Mayor Lynn Lewis asked how many people are still not hooked up to the system, and Town Commissioner Sharon Conaway asked if any of these people were delinquent with their availability payments. Town Attorney Ann Rowe said the town is making an effort to collect funds from several people.
Commissioner Kim Lewis said her concern was that people who have already paid the cost would find it unfair, almost like the fee waiver was rewarding people for not doing their due diligence by tying into the system already. Conaway pointed out that having people hook up to the system a few years early will lead to additional revenue for the town.
Kevin Webb with the public works department pointed out that another plus with having people hooked on is that if a person does not pay their water bill, the water can be cut off, whereas there is not much you can do when a person does not pay their availability fee.
Mayor Lewis suggested the possibility of reducing the tap fee instead of waiving it completely. The board will wait for additional information.
The board did accept a $66,300 ARC grant to partially fund replacement of the Hairston Street lift station. Ellis said this grant was expected and the replacement has been budgeted for 2012-13 as part of the broader system upgrade.
“This is the first of about 6-7 lift stations that will need to be replaced at a cost of over a million dollars,” Ellis explained.
“The town will need to install a new well and begin to replace some of the original water piping — these will be multi-year, multi-million dollar projects,” said Ellis. “We will continue to pursue any and all available funding, but it is clear that much of the costs will have to come from the water/sewer operations.”
The board also approved an amendment to the 2012-13 Water/Sewer Fund which increases revenue by $28,162. This revenue is due to corrected meter readings at the Parkdale plant. Most of this increase in funds will go toward sewer system repair.
Ellis explained that a few years ago Parkdale installed a metering system to measure exactly how much of the water it used actually entered the wastewater system. When the meter was installed, the town was given instructions on how to read it, but Ellis said the instructions were wrong and town has been under-charging Parkdale.
“The problem has been corrected and the customer is being charged the correct amount,” said Ellis.
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