Rising costs lead to increase in Richmond County’s water, sewer fees

By: By Gavin Stone - Staff Writer

ROCKINGHAM — The increased water and solid waste fees outlined in the final budget went into effect on July 1, and along with that came several changes to the Richmond County Water Department’s rules and regulations.

The water and solid waste fees increased 2.5 percent for the new fiscal year, which Public Works Director Jerry Austin said was a response to a variety of factors.

The contributing factors for the water fee increase were a 10 percent increase in the cost of water from Anson County, paying for an updated communication system at the water treatment plant, increasing costs of chemicals to treat the water, and a project to widen about 2,000 feet of water line on Stokes Road from 2 to 6 inches as required by the state to provide fire protection, according to Austin.

For the solid waste fee, Austin said it was a direct result of an increase in the Consumer Price Index and a “significant increase” in the cost the county landfill charges per truckload.

A household that uses 5,000 gallons of water per month will pay an extra $0.28 per week, or $1.11 per month, for a $44.43 total bill. If you use 10,000 gallons per month, your fee will increase by about $0.47 per week, bringing the total bill to $74.98 based on the new fee schedule. Bills for residential usage of 5,000 and 10,000 gallons last year were $43.32 and $73.12, respectively.

The minimum monthly bill for residential water has increased from $22.65 to $23.25.

For commercial water usage, the fee for 50,000 gallons has increased from $256.15 to $262.55 per month, an increase of $1.60 per week. The minimum fee for commercial water is now $31.75, whereas last year is was $31.75.

Austin said that whether or not the bill increases in the future will depend on whether Duke Energy’s requested 7 percent rate hike is approved by the state.

“We know it’s coming we just don’t know how much it’s going to be,” he said.

Several other parts of the policy had new verbiage, but the meaning remained the same, according to Austin.

Because of the new digital water meters, the county has eliminated the $15 fee to re-read water customers’ water meters because it no longer requires a worker to manually read it. The new water meters will also mean that the date the meters are read will be the same every month: the 15th. This is due to the ease of reading the meters.

The county has also gotten tougher on its fees for tampering with water meters. Last year, the punishment for the second offense was a $150 fine and a $200 fine for the third; this year, officials will issue a $250 fine on the second offense and $500 on the third and each additional offense.

There is a new section outlining the county’s policy on fire hydrant usage by an individual or company. To use a hydrant, a customer must set up an account and complete an application at the Richmond County Water Administration Office at 1401 Fayetteville Road. Once the customer submits the application, he or she must deposit $500 which will be refunded if the cost of the water used is less than that amount.

The only hydrants that can be used without approval from the county are at the Richmond County Airport, the Water Treatment Plant, and the Marston Volunteer Fire Department. The new policy also lays out additional safety measures for those using a fire hydrant.

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]

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By Gavin Stone

Staff Writer