Wrightsville Beach water and sewer rates would see a 25 percent increase under the proposed budget finalized by town staff this week, with town leaders saying the increase would fund several badly needed upgrades for the aging system.
The 2018-2019 town budget would raise spending to $16,325,482, up from $13,457,087 in the previous year. A public hearing on the budget will be on the June 12 board of aldermen agenda.
The increase in water and sewer rates come as defects in the aging system are exposed. One of the first priorities will be the construction of a secondary sewer line off the island, as the Northeast Interceptor (NEI) line that currently moves sewage to a treatment plant suffered two ruptures within the past year.
However, that project was included in the current budget proposal, which at $350,000 is less than the $800,000 that was initially projected.
To tackle the upgrades to the system, town board members asked Wrightsville Beach Public Works Director Williams Squires to create a list of priorities that expand over a 10 year period.
“We picked highest priority areas in the first 10 years, but who knows, we may have to change things up,” Squires said. “It’s going to be a fluid process.”
Squires said other priorities will be efforts to fix structural issues to lift station no. 3, which serves the island’s south end, approximately from Iula Street to Jack Parker Boulevard. Another priority is to upgrade the water mains between Raleigh and Columbia streets.
“They are two-inch galvanized water mains that are now producing terrible pressure and flow,” Squires said.
The rate hikes come after several years of steady rates, while the system continued to degrade, Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair said.
Blair said the budget moved money from the general fund to address the first set of projects, allowing time for the rate increases to produce revenue for future projects. He said establishing a list of projects, ranked by necessity, will help guide future boards as they continue to attack the system’s problems.
“This way, we’re not sacrificing critical projects while waiting for the money to come in,” Blair said.
The 25 percent increase on water fees would raise rates from $1.52 per unit (748 gallons) to $1.90 per unit, while the serwer rate would go from $2.65 per unit to $3.31 per unit.
Blair said that for most residents, the increase would amount to approximately $10 per month.
The budget also laid out a $5 increase in both the water and sewer maintenance fees.