ELKIN — The Surry County Board of Commissioners will seek input from the public before forcing residents in one water and sewer district to hook on to a new sanitary sewer line.
“Anytime we force a cost on citizens, they ought to have the opportunity to speak up about it,” said Commissioner Van Tucker at Monday’s county board meeting held at Elkin High School.
Together, the two ordinances before commissioners would force those property owners in and near the Interstates Water and Sewer District who own structures located within 200 feet of a gravity sewer main to hook up to a new sanitary sewer system.
Should the ordinances pass, an availability fee will be assessed to all properties located in the affected areas which do not have structures located on them.
“The availability fee covers the overhead,” said County Attorney Ed Woltz.
One ordinance would mandate hook-up in the district itself, which begins near Pine Ridge Road and stretches west along N.C. 89 to where the road intersects with Round Peak Church Road and Maple Grove Church Road. The other ordinance would force hook-up for properties located along N.C. 89 from the Mount Airy city limits to the eastern boundary of the district.
Another prerequisite to receive or to be forced to receive sanitary sewer services is a property must first hook in to the public water system, said Woltz, since billing for sewer services is based on water usage. Those properties not receiving public water services are not required to hook in and will not be assessed an availability fee.
Commissioner Buck Golding said he has fielded a number of phone calls in recent days, and each has a common theme.
“The drift I get is a lot of people don’t know whether they are on a forced main or a gravity main,” said Golding.
The mandatory hook-up ordinances only apply to properties which lie within 200 feet of a gravity main. However, forced mains run throughout the district.
Requiring folks to connect to a forced main isn’t a good idea, according to the attorney. “The price is just not feasible,” said Woltz, who believed a recent connection estimate for this situation hit about $10,000.
After the meeting, County Manager Chris Knopf noted the costs associated with hooking on to a forced main vary with matters such as on which side of the street a structure is located. It is much cheaper to hook into a gravity main.
He noted the county would charge a $500 fee to connect to the system, and the municipality serving the affected property — either Mount Airy or Dobson — would charge an additional fee to hook on.
Property owners must also pay to have pipes run from the connection point to their homes or businesses, said Knopf. For those property owners assessed an availability fee, the availability fee would be equal to or less than the servicing municipality’s base rate for services.
Knopf said he and other county officials were working to identify which properties meet the criteria for mandatory hook-up under the proposed ordinances. After that process is complete, letters will be sent to those property owners who are affected.
“These ordinances are poised for approval,” Woltz told board members on Monday. “This is not something that requires a public hearing, but it has been the tradition to hold a public hearing on these matters.
The board opted to err on the side of allowing the public the opportunity to comment in open session, which will come at the April 3 meeting.
Knopf said the Interstates sewer line, on which work began in September of 2015, should be ready to begin serving customers soon. Though the majority of the district is complete, some work remains on a section of the project west of I-77.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.