South Charlotte

Stallings residents protest sewer plan

Some residents in four Stallings-area neighborhoods are outraged that a private sewer company wants to raise their monthly rates from $58 to $70.

Stallings residents helped overflow a room in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center recently, where the N.C. Utilities Commission held one of several public hearings for consumers statewide about the proposed increase.

“People are just frustrated,” said Todd Smith, a resident of Country Woods East who spoke at the hearing. “Some people are mad and angry like me. Some people have just given up.”

He estimated that about 250 people attended the hearing.

Residents of Country Woods East, Crismark, Buckingham and Emerald Lake are serviced by Aqua North Carolina, a private sewer company. Other parts of Union County receive sewer service from Union County, the City of Monroe or other private companies.

Residential customers of Aqua North Carolina pay a flat monthly rate of $58 for sewer service. Union County Public Works customers pay a fee based on their monthly water usage. A household using 4,500 gallons of water a month would pay a county sewer fee of about $35.

Aqua America, Aqua North Carolina's parent company, is proposing to levy the monthly rate of $70 statewide to customers. That means some communities' fees could rise that high from their current $20 or $35 monthly rates. Residents from all over North Carolina have filed complaints against the proposed increase with the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Smith said that when Stallings residents buy houses in neighborhoods served by Aqua North Carolina, they often aren't told about the $58 fee. He also said it's not fair to people such as his neighbor, who spends months out of the year in Florida and still is charged a $58 fee for sewer every month.

Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said she's heard complaints from residents about the Aqua fee for several years.

At a meeting late last month, the Stallings Town Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution asking Aqua to consider a usage-based fee rather than a flat rate.

“There's a long history of dissatisfaction with this whole situation,” Paxton said.

Aqua North Carolina president Thomas Roberts did not return a call seeking comment.

Paxton and several other residents pitched the usage-based fee idea at the Oct. 28 N.C. Utilities Commission public hearing. She said Aqua could use residents' water-usage data from Union County to calculate fees.

Flat fees also don't promote water conservation, Paxton said.

Smith said he liked the idea of a usage-based fee, but believes residents will get relief from the flat rate only if someone buys the sewer system from Aqua, which has not indicated it's for sale.

“We just want a fair and competitive rate,” Smith said. “This is not fair.”

The N.C. Utilities Commission will make a decision on the proposed rate increase in 2009.