ALBEMARLE — Last week, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners adopted a new water system development fee ordinance. The new ordinance affects applicants for new water and sewer service and current users who need upgraded connections to water and sewer service. No public comments were made during the public hearing last week. Prior to this new ordinance, Stanly County did not have a development fee for water and sewer.
According to Duane Wingo, the county utilities director, new water lines cost the county approximately $700,000 per mile, and sewer lines cost approximately $950,000 per mile. Wingo said recent capacity improvements to the water system cost the county $7.2 million, and a future capacity increase will cost $32 million. “These fees … are very necessary in order for us to accommodate the growth that is happening in Stanly County,” said Wingo.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board of commissioners heard the results of a report from The Wooten Company, which performed a study to determine the maximum amounts Stanly could charge for new water and sewer connections. State law says counties may not charge system development fees in excess of the maximum fees presented in the study.
After reviewing the Wooten study, county utility staff recommended the commissioners adopt new fees setting water and sewer connection fees below the maximum allowed by law. The recommended rates from the county staff were less than half of the maximum allowable fees under the study. During the meeting, Commissioner Bill Lawhon made a motion to set the water and sewer connection fees at the maximum amounts from the Wooten study. That motion was seconded by Commissioner Zach Almond. The commissioners approved the motion 6-1, with chair Tommy Jordan voting no. “I think it’s too high,” said Jordan in announcing his lone “nay” vote.
Prior to the new ordinance, a new, standard water connection cost a residential customer a $1,300 connection fee, and sewer connections were $1,250. With the new ordinance in place, new residential water customers will pay $8,622, which includes the connection fee and the new system development fee. A new water and sewer customer will now pay $13,389, a 525% increase over the total costs before the new ordinance.
The county could vote at any time during the next five years to lower the fees.