Sewer service surcharge sours customers

Published 3:16 pm Friday, December 12, 2008

By Staff
Users voice concerns to Belhaven Town Council
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven’s decision to initiate a “grinder pump surcharge” for users of the town’s sewer service in the unincorporated areas of Pantego Township is grinding the gears of certain customers.
Wayland Whitley, a Pantego Township resident and user of the sewer service, voiced his displeasure with the surcharge at the Belhaven Town Council’s regular meeting Monday.
Whitley said he was addressing the council as a representative of Pantego Township’s sewer service customers.
His biggest qualm with the decision by the council to add a $10 grinder pump surcharge was that users in Pantego Township were not fully informed about the surcharge.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal responded that the decision to implement the surcharge was public knowledge.
The decision was made by the council at its regular meeting on Oct. 27.
Whitley said he was not aware of the surcharge until he received his water and sewage bill at the end of November.
He has advised users in his community to pay the bill, but not the $10 surcharge.
The agreement between Belhaven and Beaufort County for sewer services to be extended to unincorporated areas of Pantego Township was made on Dec. 12, 2006, said Belhaven Town Manager Guinn Leverett.
The agreement stated that “sewer rates charged shall be the same as the town’s in-town customer rate in effect at this time.”
Whitley said the $10 surcharge was not part of the agreement.
The contract is silent on the difference between the “force main” system used by Pantego Township residents, which requires a grinder pump at each customer location, and the gravity sewer system used by in-town residents, said Leverett.
Leverett said the difference “represents a considerable liability to the Town of Belhaven, which is required by North Carolina General Statutes to maintain the total system to insure public health considerations.
O’Neal said the surcharge ensures fairness in sewer rates.
O’Neal stated that over 30 years, the town has been subsidizing sewer services to the county to the tune of millions of dollars.
Through a projector presentation, O’Neal showed the Pantego Township users, public and council how much money the town is losing on sewer services.
The town maintains 25 miles of sewer line outside of Belhaven, providing services to 248 customers. In addition, the town maintains 16 miles of sewer line inside the city limits, with 838 customers, said O’Neal.
O’Neal called the agreement a disaster for the town.
The town tried to take up the issue with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to no avail, he said.
After O’Neal presentation, Whitley requested that the mayor meet with members of the Pantego Township community within the nine to 10 days. He told the mayor that the sewer service users in his community deserve to see O’Neal’s presentation.
O’Neal agreed to meet with the community at a later date, and he promised to advertise action by the council affecting communities outside Belhaven better.