Rules revision means no deposit back, yet

Published 5:04 pm Thursday, February 20, 2020

A revision of outdated water department rules and regulations means county water customers will not get their deposit back until an account is closed.

“(The revision) eliminates the return of deposits,” said Beaufort County Public Works Director Christina Smith. “We felt we should hold the deposit so if someone discontinued paying their bill, we would be able to apply that deposit to the outstanding balance.”

Currently, a $100 deposit is required to open a water-service account with the county. Prior to the new rules going into effect, the county, after 12 months, would return the $100 deposit to the account holder.

The last time the rules and regulations were updated was in 2003, and Smith said much of language needed to be changed or clarified. A committee was formed to work on the revisions before they were presented to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting on Feb. 10.

The committee also revised the classification of service from the broader residential and commercial to residential, commercial, institutional and industrial. Industrial and commercial users will be charged the same rates, as will residential and institutional.

With the revision, the county will now charge a customer on their bill for any damage or tampering done to Beaufort County equipment. As the new smart meters are more sophisticated pieces of equipment, a fee schedule was created, specifying how much each component costs, as opposed to the entire mechanism. Those who damage a component will be billed accordingly.

The new rules and regulations also strengthen language about a property owners responsibility if they were to plant trees or bushes on top of water lines, or pave them over.

Commissioners passed the updated rule and regulations at the meeting by a vote of 6-1. Commissioner Ed Booth was the lone dissenting vote, as he said he believes the county water department should continue to refund account holders’ deposits after a year of service.