05/21/10 — Fremont board proposes rate hikes in budget

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Fremont board proposes rate hikes in budget

By Laura Collins
Published in News on May 21, 2010 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Board of Aldermen discussed the town's proposed budget at its meeting Tuesday.

The budget does not include an increase in electric rates, but does include hikes in water and sewer rates.

The proposed budget calls for an 11 percent sewer rate hike. Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said the move will pay for an increase in the rate the town is being charged by the city of Goldsboro.

"The city of Goldsboro has proposed a 5 percent increase in sewer for July 2010. They also increased the sewer 5 percent in July 2009," he said. "And the town of Fremont did not do any increases at that time."

The budget also calls for a 17 percent increase in water rates.

In March, the town received results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Chapel Hill, Division of Government, which took a closer look at the town's water and sewer rate structure. The study suggests raising the town's water rate an average of about 17 percent. It would be the first increase in water in seven years. Residents who live in town would have the same base rate of $14.25, but the rate per 1,000 gallons of water used would increase from $2.99 to $4, about a 15 percent increase. Residents who live outside of town would have the same base rate of $14.25, but the rate per 1,000 gallons of water used would increase from $4.52 to $6, a 19 percent increase.

"We've got to create enough revenue to cover the expenses. That's simply what we're doing here," McDuffie said.

But some board members questioned raising the water and sewer rates. Board member Leroy Ruffin suggested a 5 percent sewer rate increase to compensate for Goldsboro's 5 percent rate increase, and said 11 percent seemed too high.

The budget also calls for a $6.32 increase in sewer charges to the town of Eureka per thousand gallons. In addition, Fremont also sent a letter to Eureka addressing the $66,000 Eureka owes Fremont for sewer services. McDuffie said Eureka pays part of their sewer bill every month, but not all of it.

"The town of Fremont cannot continue to subsidize the town of Eureka," he said. "Fremont has been waiving the penalty fees, but if we don't receive notice by June 10 on how Eureka plans on paying the money back and keep the bill current, I will recommend to the board to no longer waive the penalty."

The board agreed to hold a budget work session next Tuesday at 7 p.m. to further discuss the budget.

Also at the meeting, the board approved a new public comment policy. The new policy comes on the heels of several town meetings at which residents engaged in back and forth exchanges with the board members and asked questions throughout the entire meeting rather than just during the public comment portion.

"This is to help organize the public comment time. It's gotten out of hand and it does need to be more organized," McDuffie said.

The new policy allows 20 minutes for public comment with each person having three minutes to comment. Any comments that may exceed three minutes should be submitted to the board in writing. The person commenting should only address the mayor during their allotted time and the board may reply to the comments after the public hearing portion is closed, if they choose.