The county’s effort to boost its number of water customers has paid off in a big way, as a temporary reduction in tap-on fees saw plenty of takers in January — nearly five times the monthly average for new customers.
Starting Jan. 1, the county implemented a reduction in tap-on fees for potential water customers, a move that will extend through March 31 in an attempt to get more people on the system. Last year, Public Works director Lin Reynolds floated the idea as one that could expand the customer base around the roughly 500 miles of water lines extending across Sampson.
Tap-on fees usually range from $500 for a 3/4-inch tap to $600 for a 1-inch tap. For the limited period, the fee has been reduced to $100, with the requirement that those who sign up at the reduced rate sign a contract to pay the minimum monthly water fees for a period of 24 months, even if they do not purchase water. The base fee is $19.40 per month, with a usage rate of $4.85 per 1,000 gallons.
Reynolds said this week that the county had 42 new customers sign up in January, compared to a monthly average of 9-10 new customers. He said that, while the number fluctuates, there were around 5,400 Sampson County water customers at the end of last year. There is “a lot of potential” for growth, he said leading up to the tap-on fee reduction going into effect.
“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. 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.
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 in progress.
Reynolds said he would like to possibly see another 25 to 30 miles of additional line, but that takes time and money.
With the county again 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.”
The tap-on process typically takes a week to 10 days. He attested to the benefits to being on the county system.
“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.”
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