City willing to work with county on funding sewer extension
County wants promise it will recoup $250,000 it’s providing to project
By MIKE VOSS
Washington officials said they were not aware of a potential problem related to extending city sewer service to Carver Machine Works until comments were made at a recent Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Those comments caught the attention of Washington’s mayor and City Council members, who said they are willing to work with the county to resolve the matter.
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette said she and council members became “upset when we read those comments in the paper.” Councilman Archie Jennings, referring to the comments, said it’s “shocking to be considered out of order in this process.”
The city and county are involved in extending water and sewer lines to Carver Machine Works so the business can expand. The county does not provide sewer services, but it does operate water systems. The county buys water from the city. Because the county is the applicant for the grant funding helping pay for the project, it will own the project infrastructure for one year. After that year, the city will own the sewer lines and lift station.
At issue is a $250,000 loan from the county to move the project forward. At their April 7 meeting, commissioners voted 5-2 to transfer funds to provide the $250,000 to move the project forward.
After that vote, Commissioner Hood Richardson indicated he planned to offer a motion calling for the city to promise in writing to repay the loan before the project is completed.
Richardson accused the city of leaving the county coffers in the lurch in regard to previous funding agreements. He made a motion that the county not allow the sewer-system expansion down River Road to be closed out until a written agreement outlining a repayment schedule be struck and approved by commissioners and the City Council. The motion passed with the stipulation that the city be notified in writing of the measure within a week.
County Manager Paul Spruill discussed the county’s concerns with recouping its $250,000 loan with the council Monday. Spruill said the county is willing to work with the city in developing a plan for the county to recoup its loan. Councilman Doug Mercer said one way for the county to recoup its $250,000 would be for it to add a fee to the city’s impact fees it charges for residents and businesses to connect to its sewer lines. Spruill said that idea has merit.
Some council members expressed concerns the county, as part of any deal struck between it and the city, may want a role in deciding if and when those sewer lines are extended or who may connect to them. Jennings said any deal between the city and county should make it clear the county has no say when it comes to the city annexing areas that may be served in the future by those sewer lines. City officials said annexation is attractive to some people because it provides them with sewer services as an option to septic tanks.
Mercer suggested the city and county cooperate on determining where sewer lines could be extended and when that should occur.
Jennings said the nature of the agreement between the city and county should change once the county has recouped its $250,000 to ensure the city and not the county has final say on what the city does with the sewer lines.