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East Spencer board asks for meeting with city to talk about water-sewer rates

EAST SPENCER — East Spencer aldermen say town residents are paying some of the highest water and sewer rates in Rowan County, and they’d like that to change.

During its Monday retreat, the Board of Aldermen sat down with Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins, City Manager Lane Bailey and Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer to discuss some relief.

No decisions were made, but Heggins said she’d take the concerns back to the City Council to see if a joint meeting can be scheduled to discuss why the rates are so high and what can be done.

Part of the reason for high rates is an old water system that had a number of leaks, though the town has since made repairs. The other reason is a debt service the town has been paying off for a number of years.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people leave because of the water rates,” said Alderman Dwayne Holmes.

He said he knows of people who moved as recently as this past weekend because of the high water and sewer rates.

East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett said for a number of years when Salisbury-Rowan Utilities increased its rate, the town decided against raising its own water rate. Now the town is trying to recover from those decisions and paying off its debt.

Alderwoman Deloris High asked how long it would take to see relief if Salisbury took over East Spencer’s system. Behmer said officials would have to run some numbers.

“I don’t think we could give you a responsible answer. I don’t think anybody can give you an answer right now,” City Manager Bailey said.

A study is supposed to be conducted by WithersRavenel-Martin, an environmental and engineering firm based in Cary.

“I’m for turning the system over if it’s going to benefit the citizens,” said Alderman Tony Hillian.

He suggested an update about every three months. The final consensus was to have a joint meeting with both boards, then form a subcommittee to follow up.

Bailey said he’d contact WithersRavenel-Martin to ask if the firm could provide some answers within the next seven to 14 days. By then, the town should know whether or not it received a sewer grant.

Also during the retreat, each department head discussed goals and accomplishments of the previous year.

The majority of the requests were for infrastructure and equipment needs, including a new fire station, police tasers and in-car computers, and public works equipment.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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