Cape Fear Public Utility Authority board members discussed how to expand the water and sewer system during a workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Coastline Conference Center.
“You’ve never had a comprehensive policy for how you’re going to pay for future growth,” facilitator Ed Donahue said to the members.
Donahue said the authority does not want existing customers to subsidize the growth nor the growth to subsidize existing customers.
With financial mechanisms such as state and federal grants drying up, other options include enticing developers to make contributions to help with portions of new construction, sponsored loan programs and system development charges.
Wilmington city councilman Neil Anderson raised concerns about the CFPUA’s queue system, but Chairman Jim Quinn said the queue and the capacity issue could easily be resolved.
“The queue system is for those areas where there isn’t capacity,” Quinn said.
Expanding the capacity is the solution, which they were there to discuss, he said.
The talk about growth comes as the CFPUA financial committee is working on a proposal for a rate increase and possible new rate structure for customers.
Authority board member Cindee Wolf said nobody wants to raise rates. Studies, she said have found that the CFPUA rates are not high or low, but in the middle compared to other similar entities.
“It’s the future,” she said.
She asked Donahue if it would cost future customers a whole lot more 10 years from now if members do not sponsor the growth to get more customers on the system now. He said yes, that a certain amount of growth is necessary to be at optimum capacity.
“That’s a hard sell to the public,” Donahue said.
City councilman Charlie Rivenbark, who early on in the workshop questioned who would pay for the growth, said the days of cheap water are over.
The current annual CFPUA customer average charges, at $715.74 per year, rest between the Greenville Utilities Commission and the City of Durham.
The town of Wrightsville Beach, separate from the CFPUA, has the second lowest annual average, under $600 per year.
In 2012, 81 percent of residential CFPUA customers were in the level 1 tier, using 1,000-12,000 gallons at a cost of $2.64 per gallon. The average residential customer used 9,200 gallons of water per bi-monthly billing period, with the median number at 7,000 gallons.
The financial committee will meet on March 6, before the authority holds a rate hearing on March 13, at 6 p.m., at the New Hanover County Administration Building.