01/14/08 — Goldsboro not considering water use limits ... yet

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Goldsboro not considering water use limits ... yet

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 14, 2008 2:51 PM

Hearing Raleigh city officials talk about increasing water and sewer rates by 50 percent might have Goldsboro residents wondering if they will see a rate increase sometime soon.

City Manager Joe Huffman says, "No."

"Right now, we are not discussing that strategy," he said.

Instead, city officials are waiting for the rain -- praying for it, really.

"We are still in a holding pattern," Huffman said.

Rain is expected Thursday, so Huffman is hoping that those anticipated droplets will help boost the water level.

But he knows that hoping is much different than actually receiving.

"At the same time that we are waiting for rain, we are preparing for a worst-case scenario," he said. "It doesn't hurt to hope."

The scenario isn't quite as bleak as it seemed, however.

"We are not where we need to be," he said. "However, we are better off than before Christmas."

As of Monday morning, the water level of Goldsboro's main water source, the Neuse River, was slightly above 3.5 feet.

The level steadily fell from the level at the beginning of the month, which was above 10 feet due to some rainfall.

Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said she wants rain near Falls Lake since that's where the water for the Neuse River flows from.

"I am looking for water upstream," she said. "If it rains here, it won't do us any good. It will help the people on down the line, but not us."

The Falls Lake area is also expected to receive rain on Tursday.

If the weather doesn't save the day, Huffman still doesn't believe increasing rates by 50 percent is in the city's future.

"I am not sure about the use of rate increases for this purpose," he said. "I think we do need to give the logic some thought, but I think that folks know we have a problem."

Huffman said he is hoping people are still conserving, and those who are shouldn't be punished.

"Initially, I am thinking that charging a higher rate for folks who fail to reduce consumption below a certain percentage of past usage averages seems more fair than charging everyone a higher rate," he said. "The latter strategy penalizes those who have already taken measures to reduce usage."

Mrs. Brashear said that using any kind of surcharge, though, shouldn't be a problem.

If there is an increase in rates and people continue to conserve, their monthly water bills should even out, she said.

Right now, with the city pouring money into dredging, sandbagging and interconnections to ensure that residents continue to have water for as long as possible, the budget is not balancing.

The revenues are much less than the expenditures, Mrs. Brashear said, so increasing rates would help the city to further fund projects to keep water in Goldsboro's households.

"I don't think people would be upset with an increase in rates because we are using the money to help with getting them water," she said. "I don't think they would say, 'No, don't dredge or don't pay for those interconnections,' because water is something we all need to live. I think they would understand if we do have to increase rates."

Currently, the city is still under Phase III of Mandatory Conservation measures and has been since Nov. 5.

The next stage, if the drought persists, will be the Water Shortage Crisis Phase, which includes measures such as using only disposable plates, cups and utensils at restaurants.