BEAUFORT — After tabling a decision on the matter during last month’s meeting, the Carteret County Board of Commissioners may decide Monday whether or not to sell the county’s publicly owned and maintained water system to a private company for $9.5 million.
The board’s regular meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the commissioners’ boardroom of the administration complex in Beaufort at 302 Court House Square. County commission meetings are also livestreamed and archived on the county’s website at carteretcountync.gov/785/Videos---Live-Recorded and on the Carteret County Government Facebook page.
According to the agenda for Monday’s meeting, the board of commissioners will consider whether to accept or reject the offer from Carolina Water Service of North Carolina to purchase the county’s water system for $9.5 million. The system serves around 1,200 customers concentrated along the Highway 101 corridor beyond Beaufort town limits.
The county board was presented the same purchase offer at its June 21 meeting, but commissioners voted unanimously to table it until this month. Commissioner Mark Mansfield made the motion to table, saying he wanted to wait until a contract with Carolina Water Service could be finalized before proceeding.
“Me personally, I’d feel more comfortable next month making a decision based upon knowing that we have everything in front of us, knowing (what) we’re making a decision on,” Mr. Mansfield said June 21 as he introduced his motion to table.
County attorney Rob Whealty said during the June meeting the county and Carolina Water were “real close” to finalizing a contract, but that some details, such as water rates, were still being hammered out. He said June 21 the final contract was “a few days away.”
However, county manager Tommy Burns told the News-Times Friday a contract would not be finalized until after the board of commissioners makes a decision regarding the offer to purchase the system. He said if the bid is accepted Monday, a purchase contract “would then have to be agreed upon and approved at a later date.”
“The basic terms of a purchase agreement have been discussed with the legal staffs but nothing has been finalized because that would be premature at this point because the Commissioners have to first accept the offer to purchase,” Mr. Burns said in an email. “A purchase contract would then be voted on publicly if the terms were agreed upon by the attorneys and the two parties involved.
“Merely accepting the offer to purchase is not the final step in consummating the sale,” he concluded.
If the sale is accepted, it would have to go through a due diligence period and is subject to final approval by the N.C. Utilities Commission, as well.
County commissioners and Mr. Burns said in June that Carolina Water had agreed not to raise rates for five years if its offer is accepted. Later that meeting, during a separate discussion over the county budget, commissioners voted to eliminate a 5.5-cent special water district tax and to increase rates of all customers on the county water system by 95%, effective July 1. That was done to help prevent the system from being classified by the State Water Infrastructure Authority as a financially distressed system.
There is no public hearing required for consideration of the sale, but the item directly follows a general public period comment during which interested people may speak about the issue.
Carteret County for Public Water, a grassroots group that has been vocal in opposition to the proposed water system sale, plans to have a contingent of supporters at Monday’s meeting to urge commissioners not sell the water system.
“As of right now I hope they either vote to stop the current process and deny the sale or to table it once again,” organizer Patrick Kelly told the News-Times.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.