The Stokes County Board of Commissioners approved rate increases for the Danbury Water System at a meeting on Jan. 14.
County Manager Rick Morris presented the board with a breakdown of current rates and proposed rates at the Dec. 26 meeting. With the approved changes, the basic monthly service fee for water will continue to be $23 for up to 3,000 gallons but will increase for residential and small business customers from $5.75 to $6.75 per 1,000 gallons used above 3,000. For institutional or industrial customers, the rate per 1,000 gallons above 3,000 will increase from $5.75 to $8.75. The availability fee will increase from $13 to $14 per month.
The only change to sewer rates is an increase from $5 to $5.75 per 1,000 gallons used above the 3,000 for residential and small business customers. The basic monthly service fee will remain at $14.
Commissioner Jimmy Walker had concerns about the increases, but Morris said they were needed. Morris pointed out the many improvements that have been made to the system and that this would be the first increase since 2008. The increase will help the system be self-sustaining.
Last year the county commissioners approved an upgrade to the water system in Danbury, which included various system improvements and a new water tank. The water system was also cleaned out using the relatively new “ice pigging” system. According to the county manager, information was provided to the board during the budget work sessions last year that a rate increase for the Danbury Water System would be implemented during the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The county manager was asked to gather figures on average usage by institutional users, which he presented on Jan. 14. Had the new fees been in effect, Pioneer Community Hospital would have seen an increase of $4,007.75 and county government an increase of $6,462.75 during the previous seven-month period.
Walker said he was still puzzled looking at the amounts of the increases. When the county got a grant he was hoping it would prevent some of this. He asked if the county had exhausted all other options, and Morris said it had. Walker acknowledged that small systems are notorious for costing the county.
If the county saw no other options, Walker said he would support the motion to approve the rate increase, but with reluctance. Commissioner Ronda Jones said no one likes increases, but you have to pay for things. The motion was unanimously approved.
Also during the meeting:
• After the water rate vote, the board discussed nominations for the CenterPoint Human Services board. The agency’s transition to a managed care organization required alterations to the board’s makeup. Jan Spencer and Leon Inman were appointed to the board to represent Stokes County as the social services appointee and commissioner appointee.
• During the public comment session, Russel Slate informed the board that he was leaving the Stokes County Economic Development Commission. The board is now seeking a replacement to finish his term. Slate said he feels his time can be better served in other areas, but he is thankful for his time serving on the board. He said he feels the board is no longer an advisory board but more of a listening board; more of a director’s board than a commissioners’ board. “I’m not saying that’s a bad thing,” he added. He also claimed that the EDC has some non-members taking part in the meetings and sitting at the table, which he thinks takes time and disrupts the meeting. Slate said he was speaking on his own behalf and not on behalf of the board. He thanked the board for their time.
• Morris called the board’s attention to the success of the medicine drop program in the county last year, with more than 23,000 doses collected. “I think that’s a really important program,” he said.
• During the commissioners’ comments period, Jones informed the board that she had attended the Governor’s Inaugural Ball, which she said was a good experience. Inman said he would be attending the Legislative Goals Conference to represent the county, and Jones said she would be attending as well. James Booth noted that he attended the annual Soil and Water meeting. Walker commented about the proposed reduction in hours at the Danbury Post Office. Walker said he thought this was an important issue since Danbury is the county seat. “There are lots of reasons why we need a strong post office facility in Danbury,” said Walker.
• Jail Captain Eric Cone presented the commissioners with the county’s jail inspection report. Cone said the jail received a great “clean bill of health,” and a few maintenance issues such as a leak were noted which have already been fixed. Lankford said the report looked great. Cone said, “I was thoroughly pleased.”