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South Granville Water and Sewer Authority raises rates

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BUTNER — After a contentious public hearing, the South Granville Water and Sewer Authority passed its 2019-20 budget ordinance and rate schedule at its Tuesday meeting.

The budget raises water and sewer revenues by 20 percent and 17 percent respectively though rates charged to customers within the service area. The benchmark of 4,200 gallons per month for residential customers would remain the same.

Interim SGWASA Executive Director Michael Felts delivered the budget message before the public hearing on the matter.

“The budget ordinance contains the necessary approbations for revenues and expenditures,” Felts said. “It includes water revenues of $4.8 million, wastewater revenues of $7.6 million, non-billing revenue of $227,000, interest income of $275,000 and a fund balance approbation of $529,996.”

Felts added that the budget includes funding for implication of a payroll study should the board choose to do so, but the action must be approved separately and a presentation for it is scheduled for the June meeting. The budget also adds one new position of HR officer/administrative assistant.

During the public hearing, several citizens voiced concern over the budget and increase in rates charged.

“I’m very upset of how the rate increase became tied to the budget,” said Butner resident Lyne Bailey. “You’re effectively using this rate increase to subsidize any shortfall in the budget. I request the board to make a separate resolution for the increase in any rates rather than tie it into the budget.”

Ricky Campbell echoed concerns about the rate increases coming at a time when there is continued skepticism of water quality within the coverage area.

“You can’t balance these budgets on a residential customers of Butner,” Campbell said. “Or what you’re going to have is no development and you’re going to have people leaving Butner if this is not straightened out.”

Stem resident Tonya Gooch said increasing rates on what she describes as suboptimal water was an outrage.

“I hope this town doesn’t grow because you’re getting people in here that have no idea of the problems we have,” Gooch said. “And they’re buying houses and getting [water quality] letters in the mail we did. I’ve been here for 15 years. I enjoy where I live but I hate the water. I’m trying to get my house ready to sell because I’m scared to death when I turn my faucet on and see the discoloration in my bathtub, my sink and my washer.”

Before the board’s vote, chairman Edgar Smoak said the board is legally required by state law to draft a budget based on customers paying rates for water and sewer services.

“By law, we don’t have any choice in this, but by law we must make our rates equal to the cost of doing business. That’s how we come up with our budget every year,” Smoak said.

The ordinance passed unanimously.

In other business, the board also approved a contract for Oxford-based Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans and Company for audit services for 2019-20. The contract is for a “yellow book” audit since SGWASA will not receive federal funds over $750,000 that would trigger a single audit. The contract could be amended for a single audit if FEMA funding for Butner’s Veazey Road project is received.

The next regular SGWASA meeting is scheduled for June 11 at 6 p.m. in the main meeting room of Butner Town Hall, 415 Central Ave.