The story on Chocowinity and sewer capacity

Published 6:38 pm Saturday, April 12, 2014

By Gary L. Brinn, Beaufort County Commissioner

Many residents here in Beaufort County may not realize that Chocowinity has an agreement with the City of Washington regarding to sewer capacity.  The City of Washington has allocated 304,000 gallons of sewer capacity to Chocowinity and is all they will allocate.
Currently the Town of Chocowinity uses 178000 gallons of that allotment.  Thus the allocation still available remains 126000 gallons.  There are currently three projects which will need allotment of sewer not included in this figure.  The Family Dollar is allotted 800 gallons per day.  The River Run apartment complex has been allocated 14880 gallons.  The new rest area being planned for US Highway 17 has been allocated 8450 gallons per day.  That is another 24130 gallons of allotment spoken for.  So now we are at 101870 gallons that are left for Chocowinity to use for further development and growth.
This brings us to the current issue that is certainly causing distress in Beaufort County, the jail.  Commissioners Langley, Belcher, Booth and Klemm have made the decision to put the jail in the Chocowinity Industrial Park.  When these four first hastily voted to put it in the Industrial Complex in Washington on 264 West they forgot to do one simple thing.  They did not check with the other owner of the land which is the City of Washington.  Without their consent it could not happen.  They never contacted City of Washington officials nor elected officials before voting to do so.  So they got egg on their face when the City of Washington said thanks but no thanks.  To save face they quickly made the decision to put it in Chocowinity.  Again no due diligence was done just a quick decision so the jail process could begin.  Here we are now with a huge problem.
Once I began to look into the issue of sewer capacity the Town of Chocowinity had remaining, something didn’t smell right.  I met with Chocowinity Mayor Jimmy Mobley.  He did confirm the sewer capacity was there.  But what concerned me was he only received one phone call from the county and the question was only can you handle the sewer?  So the answer was correctly “yes” but no further inquiries of what might would be the ramifications.  Then I went and spoke with Chocowinity Public Works Director Kevin Brickhouse.  I asked him what the estimated allotment of sewer would be needed for the jail to be built there and his answer was 30000 gallons per day.   Again no other county official had asked these questions.
So I began to dig deeper.  The 30000 gallon figure for the jail was just for the inmates.  This did not include the Sheriff’s Department, Staff for the jail and Sheriff Department nor the Emergency Communications Center.  So this allotment could be more in the 45000 gallons per day range.  So to be fair on each end if we just met halfway Chocowinity would be allocating 37500 gallons per day to the jail and the other facilities.  Currently 11000 gallons are allocated to the Chocowinity Industrial Complex.  So the net loss of sewer capacity to Chocowinity is 26500 gallons per day.
That brings us to real figures from the best they can be estimated.   If the new jail is built in Chocowinity the town would be left with only approximately 75370 gallons per day of allotment.  And the questions the people of Chocowinity and the surrounding areas need to ask themselves are real.  Are we willing to give up another community like Cypress Landing to have this jail here?  Are we willing to tell businesses willing to locate in Chocowinity no?  No because there is not enough sewer capacity.  And then another serious question needs to be asked.  Are we willing for our taxes and/or current sewer rate to go up to have this jail here?  The reason that these questions are so vital is that the City of Washington under no circumstances will allocate any more sewer capacity to the Town of Chocowinity.  So that means Chocowinity would have to build its own sewer treatment plant.  Currently to build what the Town of Chocowinity would need would cost around $7.5 million.  That does not include staffing much less maintaining it once it’s online.
The jail has been an issue that has been moved forward hastily from day one for an agenda of four commissioners that is still not understood.  My warning to the fine people of Chocowinity and surrounding communities is to be very wary of the consequences that are to come should this jail be located there.  I ask you to join me in calling your County Commissioners, Mayor and Town Board and saying to them with me—Stop the Nonsense.