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Bertie water rates discussed

WINDSOR – The problem is agreed upon.

So is the solution.

Implementation is the key sticking point.

During Monday morning’s meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners, the board discussed the problem of Water District IV losing money for the past several years. County Manager Zee Lamb said the district was on pace to lose money again this fiscal year.

Lamb also brought forth a solution: raising the price of wholesale water to the town of Lewiston Woodville and other municipalities from $1.50 per 1,000 gallons to $2. The manager said that price was agreed upon by the town and county to have been implemented four years ago, but had been delayed by the board. He suggested implementing the new fee as of January 1, 2009.

Commission Chairman Norman Cherry Sr., who represents the Lewiston-Woodville district, said he felt the manager was doing his job, but was uncomfortable with raising rates for the town due to their on-going debt to the Internal Revenue Service.

Lamb reported Monday the town had originally owed more than $80,000, but that it was down to $21,000 as of Monday morning.

“The manager is doing his job in making this recommendation,” Cherry said. “My concern is that we could maintain the current rate until the debt is paid off.”

Lamb said he was concerned that the county was selling water for less than it cost to produce it.

“I’m not trying to save Lewiston,” Cherry said. “I would feel this way no matter who it was. I hate to catch a horse on three legs and cut another one from under him. They need to pay, but I don’t know that it needs to be right now.”

Lamb said he felt other county taxpayers and rural water district consumers were bearing the burden of Lewiston-Woodville’s town water customers.

“I really believe every system should be self-sufficient,” he said. “Rate payers for the rest of District IV should not have to subsidize beyond the point of producing the water.”

Lamb further stated the county would be getting information from the auditor about District IV losing money and could also receive a letter from the North Carolina Local Government Commission.

The manager also said other areas that would have to be looked at in the near future included overall water rates and the water rate charged to the prison.

Commissioner J. Wallace Perry asked if there were other towns that were purchasing water from the county and was informed the town of Windsor, Aulander, Powellsville and Harrellsville had agreements to purchase water.

He asked how much Harrellsville, located in Hertford County, was paying and Lamb said he was unsure because the agreement was new.

Perry said he wouldn’t support any measure that sold water to residents of another county at a cheaper rate than those in Bertie County. Lamb said the cost would be raised for all towns who bought water wholesale.

Cherry said the board would take the information under advisement and discuss it at a later date.