ONLINE UPDATE: Three voice comments, concerns about CFPUA rates

by Kelly Corbett
Thursday, March 14, 2013

Only three community members showed up to speak about the proposed increased rates and alternative rate structure during the Cape Fear Utility Public Authority board meeting.

The meeting, held on March 13 at the Government Center, was moved from its normal time at 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to allow customers to voice comments and concerns about the rates.

Chad O’Shields, who has been following the discussion and attending CFPUA financial committee meetings, said the tiered rate structure is punitive to families in the area.

“The number of people in a household directly affects the amount of water used,” O’Shields said.

He opposed the financial committee’s preferred of three scenarios for new rate structures, scenario A, which would charge customers using under 6,000 gallons 85 percent the cost of water at $2.90 per 1,000 gallons. Scenario A would increase the cost of water to $3.67 per 1,000 gallons for customers using more than 6,000 gallons.

“To me, it was very unclear to call it a uniform rate,” O’Shields said. “It’s a inclining block rate. ... The block rate is discriminatory. Families are charged a high prices for their basic water needs.”

Before the public hearing, Cheryl Spivey, chief financial officer, gave a presentation about the three proposed scenarios that would generate an additional 4 percent in revenues to fund the fiscal year 2013 budget, increasing revenues from $65.1 million to $62.53 million. The majority of the increase would come from sewer fixed charges.

“Our water expenses have hardly gone up this year,” Spivey said. “It’s more expensive to maintain and operate our sewer system.”

The estimated average customer gallons usage in the presentation is 10,000 gallons. The raw data has the average at 9,200 gallons, and the median usage at 7,000 gallons.

“We went with the higher number,” Spivey said.

Treasurer Mike Brown stressed that currently 81 percent of the 67,000 CFPUA water customers are paying below the cost of water. He said he does not think it is fair for business owners to pay for the brunt of water.

CFPUA board members have a month to discuss the information presented at the meeting, before voting at the April 10 meeting. Any changes would go into effect May 1.

email kelly@luminanews.com

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