ROCKINGHAM — Property owners around Ledbetter Dam need state lawmakers’ help to make improvements to Ledbetter Dam.
The end goal, according to Frank Parker and Ledbetter Lake Dam Management Inc., is to refill the reservoir and allow property values and residents’ quality of life to return to normal. During the Richmond County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday in downtown Rockingham, Parker and others requested of the commissioners to seek state legislators’ assistance to allow affected property owners to pay a special fee that would fund repairs to the dam.
The commissioners approved on a resolution to request that the county’s legislative delegation to Raleigh introduce local legislation that would allow the county to impose a fee-supported dam repair district for all properties contiguous to Ledbetter Lake.
The lake was created in 1880 and was drained July 2012 due to leaks that were found in the dam. In April 2013 Parker formed Ledbetter Lake Dam Management, a business corporation, to see the dam repaired and refilled. The new entity purchased the dam for $1.
There are a total of 136 properties touching the lake. A petition has been circulated among affected property owners. Sago said Monday that 54 percent of those with land at the lake — who hold 63 percent of the value — are in favor of the fee.
“I’ve been having various conversations with folks surrounding Ledbetter Lake,” said County Manager Rick Sago. “They’ve looked at various ways to repair this dam and have raised a significant amount of money from private donations.”
In July 2013, Parker told The Daily Journal repairs could cost $1.5 million, but the funds currently raised may not be enough to cover the cost. The amount of funds raised by the corporation was not provided at the meeting.
Since the corporation cannot pay for the repairs on its own, it is asking the legislature that the county be allowed to borrow money on its behalf and that money will be paid back in a manner similar to taxes. While Richmond County has no ownership or involvement in the operation of the dam, the county commissioners have the authority to impose annual fees concerning the repairs of dams within the county and use the fees to pay the costs of the repair.
The creation of a fee-supported dam repair district lies within the power of the North Carolina legislature.
The fees that would be imposed would be based on the amount of money that is needed to repair the dam. The fees would be collected in the same manner as taxes but set aside as a separate fund to pay the bills associated with the repairs of the dam. The fees would only be imposed on those whose property is adjacent to the lake and would be billed annually on the property tax bill of the owners of each parcel of land.