ROCKINGHAM — It was standing-room only as commissioners voted in a 4-3 split Tuesday evening to adopt a final assessment resolution for the Ledbetter Lake dam project.
County documents show that those with waterfront property along the lake will be paying an annual assessment of $5.68 for each foot of shoreline to pay for dam repairs, something that most of the property owners in the area agree with.
The project, expected to take up to 10 months to complete, is estimated to cost around $2.7 million: $1.8 million for the actual work; with the remainder being legal fees and interest.
According to County Manager Rick Sago, the county will borrow the money based on the property owners being assessed to cover the annual debt cost. Ledbetter Dam Management, LLC will be responsible for the construction contract.
“We’ve tried to do this not subjectively, but objectively,” said Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, before opening a public hearing on a preliminary assessment resolution.
One of those in favor said she and her husband, who have owned a home on the lake for six years, had suggested the possibility of a special tax district similar to one in Ocean Isle Beach, where they have their permanent home.
She said the district, much like a fire district, is the only fair and equitable way of spreading the burden of fixing the dam.
But not everyone was in favor of using shoreline footage, including retired math teacher Virgina Seymour.
She said that plan was “not reasonable or fair.”
Seymour — who would shell out $31,000 over 15 years — said based on that formula, a property owner with an undeveloped wooded lot and long shoreline would wind up paying more than a neighbor with a half-million-dollar home, pier and a smaller amount of waterfront property.
She said two-thirds of the project would be funded by the assessment of only 23 owners, with more than 70 landowners making up the remaining third.
Seymour, and several others, prefer basing the assessment on property values.
Based on the current plan, several people complained that the assessment would be more than the tax value.
“It’s putting me in a spot,” said Emily Perry, who inherited waterfront land from her father. “My family cannot pay these taxes when I’m dead and gone.”
Both Robinette and Sago said the issue was only brought to the commissioners because the property owners asked them to get involved.
Commissioners John Garner and Ben Moss said since it is a private lake with a private problem, it should have been handled by a private solution.
Moss said he didn’t want to see anyone lose their property because they couldn’t pay the assessment.
Commissioner Don Bryant joined Moss and Garner in voting against the resolution.
Another public hearing is scheduled for the commissioners’ September meeting.
Commissioners also voted to:
• approve a $6,090,290 construction bid from Dellinger, Inc. for a 2.3 million-gallon-per-day water treatment plant expansion;
• appoint Carolyn Walker to the Health and Human Services Board;
• appoint Katie Rohleder to fill the unexpired term of George Crump III on the Sandhill Regional Library System Board of Trustees;
• appoint Elaine Wilson to the Richmond County Public Library System Board of Trustees; and
• appoint Commissioner Don Bryant to a new four-year term and appoint Tax Administrator Vagas Jackson to fill a seat on the Southeastern Economic Development Commission, left vacant by former Hamlet City Manager Marchell David.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.