BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Thousands of water customers in Brunswick County could soon see some big changes in their bills. The H2GO utility company wants to build its own water treatment plan and stop buying water from the county. However, at least one customer is worried that a rate increase could be floating his way.
Currently, H2GO buys county water and distributes it to customers. Company officials say building their own plant would cut out the middle man and bring on better rates. But a former county leader thinks that idea won't hold water.
Every day, H2GO buys millions of gallons of water from Brunswick County. H2GO Executive Director, Bob Walker says the main driving factor for wanting to build their own plant is the fact that Brunswick County and the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority have plans to invest over $100 million in the next 3-5 years in order to transfer more water to its customers. By building its own treatment plant for $35 million, Walker says the company could control its own rate.
"We're just trying to be proactive and look at alternative ways to provide good customer service at the lowest rate possible," said Walker.
But at least one customer is questioning that business plan. Bill Sue is not only the former commission chair of Brunswick County, but he's also and H2GO customer. Right now, he's not happy.
"The quality of water is good, and the service is good," said Sue. "My concern is with the management down there."
The proposed H2GO facility would be large enough to treat between 4-8 million gallons of water every day, compared to the 24 million gallons treated by the county. Sue says it would be fiscally irresponsible for H2GO to move forward with building. He says the debt service alone from a $35 million project would mean an increase in thousands of water bills in the near future.
"If you put a pencil to it, even 6th grade math tells you that what they're doing will not save me money as an H2GO customer," said Sue.
Walker maintains that H2GO will be able to offer the lowest rates in the area.
"The money we spend right now to buy finished water from Brunswick County would be nearly equal to what our annual debt payment would be to capitalize a project like this," said Walker.
But Sue doesn't believe that is true.
"There's no way they can provide potable water at a lower rate than the county provides now," said Sue.
Before moving forward, H2GO would need to get state permits for construction and water transfer. But when it comes to setting the water rates for their customers, H2GO executives get to decide.
Walker says the H2GO board has not yet made a final decision on whether or not they plan to move forward with the proposed facility. However, he said they are actively looking for alternatives to county water in the next 3-5 years.
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