Fee reduction OK’d to entice water customers

By Chris Berendt - cberendt@clintonnc.com

The county has implemented a reduction in tap-on fees for potential water customers, a move that will extend through the first quarter of 2018 in an attempt to get more people on the system.

At a recent work session on water system matters, Public Works director Lin Reynolds discussed ideas for expanding the customer base in existing service areas around the roughly 500 miles of water lines extending across Sampson.

He suggested that the Sampson Board of Commissioners consider authorizing the reduction of tap-on fees for a limited time, with the requirement that those who sign up for the reduction pay the minimum water fees for a period of 24 months, even if they do not purchase water. The base fee is $19.40 monthly with a usage rate of $4.85 per 1,000 gallons.

Last week, the board approved reducing the tap fee to $100 with the two-year contract. Tap fees range from $500 for 3/4-inch tap to $600 for 1-inch tap, with the county cost to conduct that tap-on slightly more in both cases. Recently amended water ordinances provided the board the authority to reduce the fees with such water purchase requirements.

According to Reynolds, the reduced fee will be available throughout the county’s system, but only between the period of Jan. 1 through March 31, 2018.

While the number fluctuates, there are currently around 5,400 Sampson County water customers, he noted.

“We’re going to see how this turns out,” said Reynolds. “I don’t anticipate a large number of people (being added to the system), but we’ve got a lot of potential there. We thought this would spur a little interest.”

He noted specifically the northern and western portions of the county, where there are a number of residents who have well water.

“We’re growing by about nine to 10 customers a month,” said Reynolds, who noted that is on par with surrounding counties, including Duplin, Wayne and Bladen. “We’d like to increase revenues a little bit along existing lines. If we could get 50 to 100 more customers, that would be great.”

There are about a dozen who have already expressed interest leading up to the Jan. 1 start of the reduced fee implementation. Those who wish to come in and apply, and put in the request ahead of time, are welcome to do that, Reynolds said. The tap-on process typically takes a week to 10 days.

Getting more customers on Sampson’s water system is just the start of Reynolds’ plan. He’d like to see the infrastructure of the system continue to grow. Along with the 500-plus miles of water lines, two production wells have been installed in recent years, with work on a third well set to begin in January.

“We’ve got a few pockets and, if there’s enough interest, we can run a new line,” he said.

That sort of endeavor would take “a lot of research and marketing” to see whether it is cost effective. Then a funding resource would have to be identified. Reynolds has spit-balled having 25 to 30 new miles of water lines, with some interest between Garland and Roseboro, as well as around Spivey’s Corner and Newton Grove.

“They want clean water. It’s treated and tested, checked at the wells and the water source,” said Reynolds of the county water. “It’s a regulated, safe system. Well water is usually clean, but it’s not tested. If we could get 25 to 30 miles added, that’s my target.”

That would come at an estimated cost of $183,000 per mile of 6-inch line, according to quotes Reynolds has received.

Sampson County used to purchase water from Dunn, something that was halted for a time, but will start back in January. The county also purchases water from various towns, including Turkey, Garland, Clinton, Roseboro and Autryville.

“Sometimes it’s more cost effective to buy and re-sell, then putting in more wells,” the Public Works director said. “Towns are buying from us too. It helps us and these towns — we’re all connected together. We’ve got enough water to supply everybody, but this just gives us better quality.”

With the county set to again be sending a monthly check to Dunn for around $7,000 for water purchases to supplement the Sampson system and improve service — water quality and pressure — to northern customers, any funding that can offset that cost, as well as future projects, is the immediate goal.

“Hopefully we can gain some new customers to offset that,” Reynolds stated, alluding to the tap-on fee reduction offer. “That’s my goal.”

By Chris Berendt

cberendt@clintonnc.com

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.