South Charlotte

No progress in debate over water, sewer prices

Two weeks after dozens of south Charlotte residents protested high water rates outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, residents said they've reached a standstill.

Aqua North Carolina, a private company headquartered in Pennsylvania, provides water and sewer to residents living in Park South Station community off Archdale Drive.

The neighborhood is ineligible to receive Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities services because the streets are too narrow to accommodate city maintenance vehicles.

But residents in the south Charlotte neighborhood said the company is over-charging them.

Arthur Mattmiller said his water and sewer bill is nearly $100 each month. He said households his size typically see bills for $35 to $40.

Park South Station residents also pay county taxes, some of which go to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities.

"They're paying city water and Aqua water bills," said City Council member Andy Dulin, who represents District 6. "They're getting hammered. It's not really fair to them."

Mattmiller said he's most upset about the flat sewer fee of $68.

"The rates are astronomical," he said. "I think we just reached a boiling point where we're tired of dealing with the middleman."

But since the May 2 city council meeting in which residents protested and city council members said they'd talk with their attorney to see if they can help, there's been little progress.

Dulin said he is not sure how much the city will be able to intervene. Mattmiller said he's unaware of any resident plans to protest the rates further.

One resident, Stan Coleman, said he filed a complaint with the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission, claiming that Aqua illegally purchased the water lines from the community's developer.

But Mattmiller said the neighborhood's attorney said the best way to combat the rates is by targeting ordinance changes through city council.

Kimberly Olson, a resident of Country Woods East in Stallings, said she's also seeking the state public utilities commission's help to prevent outrageous sewer charges from Aqua.

The neighborhood receives sewer services from Aqua and water services from Union County.

Olson said her flat sewer rate has increased by about $20 over the last five years, and Aqua is trying to increase the rates again.

Olson wants the commission to require that Aqua's sewer rates be tied to use because "right now we're getting gouged."

"We're not going to win saying just 'Don't increase it because...,'" she said. "We're trying to tap into everyone's common sense. Common sense tells you sewer rate should be tied to usage."

Olson said she expects the commission to decide whether to approve the rate increase by fall.

Aqua North Carolina serves about 70,000 residents in the state.

In the last 36 months, the Better Business Bureau has received 85 complaints about the company nationally - all of which were resolved, said Janet Hart of the Charlotte BBB.

The majority of those complaints, or 47, were related to billing or collection issues, said Hart.

Although the company is not BBB accredited, it has an A plus rating.

"From our standpoint, this company has a good rating," said Hart. "There's not a negative mark on their report."