City commissioners make a good choice with water vote

First Posted: 2/2/2009

During a two-day retreat and planning session last week, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners opted to sell city water to Surry County, at a discount.
This was a wise move by the board, and seems to be a huge leap forward in the sometimes contentious negotiations that have been going on between the city and county for some time.
While much of North Carolina has suffered water shortages in recent years because of drought, or lack of infrastructure, Mount Airy has been saddled with a surplus of water and too much expense to pay for its water system.
As has been documented many times over, Mount Airy has been forced to raise its water rates considerably in recent years current year rates represent a 7-percent hike over the previous year, and those prior year rates represented an overall average 45-percent jump from the year before.
City officials have said a significant reason behind those increases has been because local textile firms have closed shop and left town. Because those firms were major water users, the revenue lost when they closed was significant. That has left the task of paying for water system upgrades, maintenance and general operating costs to the rest of the city customers.
Perhaps last weeks vote can help alleviate some of that burden. City water customers shouldnt get too excited, because the idea of a rate decrease is just not on the table. But, if the county demand were to be great enough, that revenue might forestall or eliminate the need for additional rate increases for some time.
It is also a good deal for the county, because it will be purchasing the water at 90 percent of what other, smaller customers have to pay.
There was some sentiment among city commissioners the county should pay the same rate as anyone else, and we appreciate those commissioners wanting to respect the rate structure and customers already paying for water use.
But, viewing the county as a bulk customer with an accompanying discount, just as the city had done with some of those textile companies, is entirely appropriate.
The county, for its part, gets a good deal, too, with a relatively inexpensive water supply that will allow the county to serve more of its residents and have access to more water for industrial recruiting.
Overall, a good, solid agreement for all parties involved.

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