Board rejects plea for sewer-system aid

Published 5:33 pm Thursday, May 30, 2013

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal on Tuesday asked the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners for some money to help fix the town’s sewer system.

He won’t get it.

By a 4-3 vote, the board rejected a proposal for the county to include money in the county’s 2013-2014 fiscal-year budget to help pay the first year’s interest ($17,000) on a loan with a 20-year payback schedule. The loan would be used to help pay for improvements to the sewer system. The annual payments would go from $17,000 in the first year to $800 in the 20th year.

Voting against the motion for the county to pay that interest were commissioners Hood Richardson, Stan Deatherage, Chairman Jerry Langley and Ed Booth. Commissioners Gary Brinn, Robert Belcher and Al Klemm voted for the motion.

O’Neal told the board the county should help pay for improvements and repairs to the sewer system because it contributed to some of the system’s existing problems. The system serves county residents who live west of Belhaven but don’t live in the county. Those residents pay the same rates for sewer service that Belhaven resident pay, O’Neal said.

If the county doesn’t provide financial help, the town could consider increasing sewer rates for those county residents who use the sewer system but don’t live in the town. That would significantly increase their sewer bills, O’Neal said, perhaps coming close to doubling their sewer bills.

Town residents should not have to subsidize the sewer service provided by the town to those out-of-town sewer customers, the mayor told the board.

Brinn envisioned the county paying the interest each year during the 20-year loan payback schedule. State law forbids a board of commissioners from financially obligating a subsequent board of commissioners. The county could pay the interest each year during the payback schedule only if the board of commissioners sitting in each of those years voted each year to do that.

Richardson said county taxpayers have no business helping out Belhaven because the town’s former leadership made a bad business deal. O’Neal argued that the county and town have no contract because the agreement the two entities entered into several years ago had not been pre-audited, as required by state law. O’Neal said Belhaven residents also pay county taxes and deserve aid in this situation.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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