The Brunswick County Board of Commissions moved to accept ownership and operational responsibility of the City of Northwest’s water and sewer system at its Nov. 4 meeting with a unanimous 4-0 vote.*
This decision resulted from an initial request from the City of Northwest to the County to receive a proposal outlining a potential merger and acquisition of the City’s water and sewer system into the County’s system.
“Brunswick County is committed to ensuring that all of our wholesale and retail customers have clean, safe drinking water and sewer systems, and this agreement is a positive step in the right direction,” Chairman Frank Williams said. “I greatly appreciate our positive working relationship with the City of Northwest, and we are grateful for their trust in Brunswick County Public Utilities. We look forward to working with the City’s leadership throughout the merger process to ensure that the residents of Northwest receive the service they deserve.”
The Board of Commissioners gave the County approval to submit a proposal to the City to acquire its system during its recent Oct. 7 meeting. The Northwest City Council indicated initial acceptance of the proposal during its Oct. 22 meeting and approved the water and sewer service agreement.
The City of Northwest’s decision for Brunswick County Public Utilities to acquire its water and sewer system was determined by the City Council to be the most economical alternative for maintenance and operation of the system and to achieve its primary goal of maintaining low rates for customers, according to City of Northwest Councilwoman Sheila Grady.
“We are looking forward to working with the County in this process and trust that the merger will be in the best interest of our citizens and the community of Northwest,” Councilwoman Grady said.
Brunswick County’s leadership is committed to providing clean, affordable and efficient drinking water to the county’s wholesale, retail and industrial customers. The County is open to providing proposals and working with other county-based utilities interested in having another entity acquire their system to discuss the process and potential benefits that a regional option offers customers.
With the most recent vote at the Nov. 4 meeting, Chairman Williams is now authorized to execute the agreement with the City of Northwest on behalf of the County following minor amendments at the City’s request. The County will assume ownership and operational responsibility of the water and sewer system on or before Jan. 1, 2020.
Since the agreement is in the beginning stages, the County is still finalizing details about what steps, if any, current City of Northwest customers might need to take during the transition to becoming county utility customers.
“Both the County and the City have expressed a commitment to making the transition as seamless as possible for everyone involved,” County Manager Randell Woodruff said. “We will be working hard to ensure our new customers are kept up-to-date and informed about what we are doing and any action that is necessary on their part—including how the County can assist them in the process.”
The City of Northwest currently has 301 water customers and 267 sewer customers. The City of Northwest already purchases its finished water from the County as a current wholesale customer.
As per the agreement, all City customers will be charged the same rates as other similar county customers.
The County will assume all city utility system-related liabilities and assets. The County has agreed to extend full-time benefit employment to the City’s one utility employee subject to normal employee screening, as well.
The City will also no longer be responsible for sewer service capacity fees at the Northeast Brunswick Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant under this new agreement since its system will belong to the County.
The County agreed to assume responsibility for the following existing debt associated with the water and sewer systems: USDA general obligation water bonds; North Carolina Clean Water Loan and Grant Program DEQ sewer loan.
The Board also approved a $100,000 appropriation to replace approximately 300 meters to incorporate the County’s meter reading technology into the City of Northwest’s acquired system.
More details about the agreement and the agenda item are at https://brunswick.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=5019&MeetingID=838
More information about Brunswick County Public Utilities is at https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/utilities/
*Note: Commissioner Marty Cooke was not present at the meeting due to illness.