Board talks water fees

Feb. 19, 2014 @ 09:13 PM

The Vance County Board of Commissioners lowered one post-construction fee for residents who sign on to the county water system.

The board voted unanimously Monday to decrease the post-construction residential capacity fee from $2,000 to $500 in order to attract more customers once construction is finished.

The county offers an incentive for customers to sign up before and during construction by charging a reduced capacity charge of $125 and a $150 deposit.

But those who wait until construction ends will have to pay more: a $1,100 connection charge, a $50 water meter charge, a $195 meter, a $150 account deposit fee and a $500 facility capacity charge.

Deputy County Manager Jordan McMillen said the charges are higher after construction has finished because the U.S. Department of Agriculture is subsidizing some of the costs while homes are being built.

Earlier this month, the water board committee discussed changes to both the informational brochure and the fees.

The committee floated the possibility of suspending the capacity fee and reinstating it after a few years.

Commissioner Dan Brummitt said he worried the $2,000 capacity fee would discourage people from signing on to the system.

“You put it in there as additional revenue for the system, but if it’s not attractive to sign up then you get nothing,” he said. “So with this fee being so high at this point, it’s not a good marketing plan. You don’t open a new business and charge the highest prices in town, if you are delivering the same services as someone else.”

Brummitt said the county should be concerned with gaining customers in the early years of the water system, rather than focusing on revenues.

“Right now, we are not trying to cash flow this system,” he said. “We know it’s not going to cash flow; it is not going to come close to cash flowing. But if we don’t get more people on it, it’s going to be a lot further from cash flowing in the future.”

County Manager Jerry Ayscue said some of the fees are necessary to minimize customers’ monthly water bills.

“Obviously, capacity fees and connection fees and all those fees are ways to keep the monthly bills down,” he said. “You can do away with every fee you want to, but you still have got to cash flow the system and so then you have got to have a higher rate for water usage.”

Ultimately, the committee decided to keep the capacity fee but lower the amount. The committee’s recommendation went to the full board Monday for final approval.

“It’s better to have a capacity fee now; I don’t care if it’s $1, you have establish the fact that you need a capacity fee,” Commissioner Archie Taylor said. “If you have to up it down the road from $1 to $1,000, all you have to justify is why is a capacity fee moving up; you don’t have to justify why I need a capacity fee when you didn’t have one to begin with.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.