Board of commissioners to vote Monday on sale of Carteret County water system

The Carteret County Board of Commissioners is set to vote Monday on whether or not to sell the publicly owned water system to Carolina Water Service of North Carolina for $9.5 million. (Metro photo)

BEAUFORT — After a back-and-forth bidding period that stretched several months, the Carteret County Board of Commissioners will decide Monday whether to accept or reject an offer from a private company to purchase the county’s publically owned and maintained water system serving around 1,200 customers for $9.5 million.

The board will hold its regular monthly meeting beginning at 6 p.m. in the commissioners’ boardroom of the administration complex in Beaufort at 302 Court House Square. According to the meeting agenda, which can be found online at carteretcountync.gov/agendacenter, commissioners will consider the offer from Carolina Water Service of North Carolina to purchase the county’s water system for $9.5 million.

Charlotte-based Carolina Water Service of N.C. was the high bidder in a bidding war with Aqua North Carolina, a subsidiary of Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based Aqua America, which made an initial offer of $7 million in February. The two companies submitted several escalating bids over the course of a few months, culminating in Carolina Water Service’s final, unanswered bid of $9.5 million submitted in early May.

Monday, the board of commissioners will decide either to accept the high offer or reject all offers. If commissioners accept Carolina Water Service’s high bid, the deal must go through a required due diligence period and approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission, among other steps, before it is finalized.

There is no public hearing associated with the offer, but a general public comment period directly precedes the matter on the agenda. Representatives from Carteret County for Public Water, a grassroots group formed in opposition to the proposed sale, will be present Monday to make a final plea not to sell.

Clark Patton, one of the primary organizers of CC4PW, has been holding meetings with commissioners – two at a time to keep things personal – along with fellow organizers Patrick Kelly and Steve Bolding. He told the News-Times the group met with all the commissioners except for Jimmy Farrington, who they weren’t able to see due to scheduling conflicts.

Mr. Patton said the commissioners seemed “receptive to what we have to say,” but did not give much indication of how they’d vote Monday.

“I don’t know which way the vote will go,” he said. 

“I am feeling optimistic after meeting with the Commissioners in small groups and being able to come to a better understanding on both sides,” Mr. Kelly shared in a text message to the News-Times.

The hope, Mr. Patton said, is a majority of the board will vote to reject the offer. After that point, his goal is for the CC4PW group to continue working with county commissioners and staff on acceptable alternatives to ensure the water system is viable – financially or otherwise – as a public entity for many years to come.

“It’s not over Monday,” Mr. Patton said. “We’ve got to get them to reject the bid first, that’s the first step, the major hurdle.”

At the board of commissioners’ meeting in April, county manager Tommy Burns laid out the financial difficulties affecting the county’s water system, which serves around 1,200 customers in an area concentrated on Highway 101 beginning just outside Beaufort’s jurisdiction, including areas of Mill Creek and North River.

Mr. Burns shared the system is essentially subsidized by a water district tax applied to all property owners within the special water district, regardless of whether or not they are hooked up to the system. He said if the county holds on to the system, to avoid it being designated a “financially stressed system” by the state of North Carolina, the county would likely have to eliminate the special water district and raise rates for customers.

 

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(4) comments

noitall

Why are we giving this cash generating machine away?? Can we see the e-mails??

Big Fat Drunk Republican

The group better look at what happening out west.

Water is going to dominate the next century. We are idiots if we sit back and watch the county screw it up.

To precious a substance to “give” to the highest bidder. That bud is way too low. Research my friends. I’m sure the county will face some struggles short term with infrastructure , but the long term is water us going to become an issue.

National security begins on your own backyard.

Sandman

That would make too much sense. Our so called county leaders do not believe in transparency. Like I said before, obviously a regular citizen can make better sense than they can. Selling the county water system is not what is best for the customers. Another example of government greed.

sick and tired

Makes you wonder where all the money goes, does it not? They keep saying how financially stressed the system is. I'd love to see the books. I believe in the other article(the one saying they tabled the vote on the sale for now but increased water bills 95%) its says there are 1200 people who use the water, and 2600 others who don't but pay a special. Lets focus on the 1200 actual users. That article states $48.00 average bill multiplied by 1200 users that equals $57,600 per month collected from actual users. $57,600 per month times 12 months equals $691,200 per year. Does it really cost THAT much money to operate a plant that services only 1200 people? Someone in the know please chime in. Then add in the "special tax" that the other 2600 non-users pay for the water they don't use. I would love to see the books.

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