Tempers flare as new H2GO board meets for first time

Tempers flare as new H2GO board meets for first time

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The H2GO Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer Board met as a whole for the first time Tuesday night since a November board meeting when, in a surprise move, the previous board moved to transfer all assets to the Town of Belville.

Tuesday night, new commissioner Rodney McCoy was sworn in and incumbent Commissioner Ron Jenkins also took the oath. Commissioner Bill Beer was sworn in earlier in the month in compliance with North Carolina State Law.

Commissioner Jeff Gerken was elected as new chairman, Commissioner Trudy Trombley was elected as vice chairman, and Beer was elected as secretary. All appointments were made in a 3-2 vote showing a clear shift of power on the board.

The meeting began with interruptions and defiance as both the previous and current boards were acting as the authority at the same time. It continued with around a dozen public comments from both sides of the issue.

The majority of the near 100-person crowd was in favor of a proposed reverse osmosis plant.

Former Leland Planning Board Commissioner and City Councilman Roy Lettieri says he's not in favor of or against the plant, but is in favor of working as a community.

"My main objective for getting up is just to declare my opinion that the way they handled their last meeting was a disgrace," he said. "Giving all the assets to a town that worked so hard to be in Leland is just, dumbfounded, it's just, it's hard to believe."

Lettieri said he has never seen a meeting like the one Tuesday night.

"I've been around for 86 years, and I've never seen meetings held this way even in tough cities like Jersey City and New York City," Lettieri said. "Never, and this was just, almost like a brawl."

Former and current H2GO commissioners viewed the crowd's responses as a sign of passion for the issue.

"They are passionate about what they heard so therefore, I don't want to judge the crowd based upon their actions because people are very passionate about their beliefs and ideas about having clean water," Jenkins said.

Since that November meeting, emergency meetings have been held, lawsuits have been filed, and people on both sides of the issue have called for the resignations of commissioners.

In the previous few years, the H2GO board has held a 3-2 majority in favor of a reverse osmosis plant.

In November's municipal election, Beer ousted previous commissioner Carl Antos, shifting the power of the board to 3-2 against construction of the plant.

Two members who still support the RO plant, Jenkins and McCoy, had not attended any of the emergency meetings.

The Town of Leland considered taking legal action against H2GO and the Town of Belville, and ultimately filed a temporary restraining order to prevent the transfer of assets of H2GO to Belville. A partial H2GO board voted to require all its employees comply with a temporary restraining order that prevents the transfer of the utility's assets to Belville, or risk being fired.

On Dec. 5, the Town of Belville filed a motion of contempt against H2GO after H2GO called an emergency meeting the town claims was uncalled for and violated the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.

At a Dec. 13 hearing, a special judge in Brunswick County decided that the Town of Belville will remain in control of the assets of H2GO Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer, but also ruled construction on a $30 million reverse osmosis plant be placed on hold.

Since last month, local officials in both Brunswick and New Hanover counties have weighed in on the actions of previous commissioners and the Town of Belville. New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White even called for the resignation of the commissioners involved in the transfer.

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