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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Water bills could see $18.10 hike

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The average Wrightsville Beach bi-monthly water bill could see a hike totaling $18.10.

During the sixth budget workshop, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen continued discussing possible fee increases to help with water and sewer department shortfalls.

The board continued a discussion about water rates from the Monday, May 12 workshop to the Tuesday, May 13 board meeting.

The rate increase could generate an additional $326,000 to cover a $324,000 shortfall.

“We can’t continue to operate in the red,” Mayor Pro Tem Darryl Mills said.

About $200,000 could be generated from fees with the remainder coming from usage.

Roughly 2,500 accounts are in the top tier, which could see an increase from $1.01 to $1.52 per unit.

“Nobody wants to do this, our system over the years just needs a little help,” town manager Tim Owens said.

Owens said there is the potential for $15-$20 million in water and sewer projects in five years.

Sue Bulluck, Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce chairwoman and governmental liaison for the parent company of the Holiday Inn Resort, stood in the audience and asked Steve Dellies, assistant public works director, if he conducted case studies showing impacts on businesses, like hotels, compared to residences. Dellies said that would have been a difficult thing to do.

“Let’s roll this out to see what the public thinks of it,” Mayor Bill Blair said. “… Put it on the agenda for June.”

Blair added that he wants to see, other than maintenance, what projects the money would go toward.

The board had a discussion Monday with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Executive Director Jim Flechtner and Board Chairman Jim Quinn about future town water needs and possibilities, when Owens recommended paying a contractor to complete a long-term needs study, estimated at $50,000, to look deeper into options and combinations of options board members have seen during recent meetings.

Parks and recreation fees

Projected Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation department fee increases could generate an estimated $25,000 for 2014-15.

Katie Ryan, parks and recreation program supervisor, said during the May 12 workshop the $25,000 figure includes revenue from increases in special event permit fees.

“Any way you slice it, we’re not going to break even on any of these,” Owens said. “…They’re better, I don’t know that you will ever close the total gap.”

Special event permit fees will increase by $25 to $50 depending on the number of participants.

Other programs that will see increases are aerobics, after school, art camp, basketball, flag football, kids’ cooking and performance club.

Flag football will see the largest increase, rising from $450 to $560 per team. The board wanted larger increases for programs like flag football that have more non-resident than resident participants. Of 29 teams and 370 players, only five were beach residents.

Board members expressed concerns about large events taking place between Memorial and Labor days. Anything more than 200 participants, except for weddings, will come before the board. Currently, events larger than 250 people come before the board for approval.

Yard debris pickup fee

The conversation about transitioning free vegetative debris pickups to a flat fee also continued, with Owens recommending a fee schedule of $25 for the minimum pickup of up to 2 cubic yards and $10 per each additional cubic yard.

The town will create stickers for trashcans letting residents know what they can and cannot throw away in their bins.

“The concern is that more than that would be cost prohibitive,” Owens said.

Dellies said the numbers assume for every $5 of fee increases, the number of calls lessens, heightening the likelihood of people hiding debris in their trash.

The town will offer free drop-off events for a few days during the spring and fall each year for residents.

The board also spoke in favor of erecting a public works shower facility with shower stalls and dressing rooms, estimated at about $35,500 for plans, engineering, structure and utilities.

The items are all contingent upon approval of the 2014-15 budget. A draft budget will be submitted by June 1, with a public hearing scheduled for June 12.

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