Do the pros of water, sewer cooperation outweigh the cons?
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ere’s the problem with Johnston County having so many water and sewer providers: When it comes to attracting business and industry, some towns are at a competitive disadvantage because their water and sewer rates are higher. That disadvantage would disappear with a single water and sewer authority setting rates.
But here’s a problem with a county water and sewer authority: Customers countywide would find themselves paying to repair or replace water and sewer lines that some towns have neglected.
Johnston County government is only recently in the water and sewer business, And that means its lines are not all that old, though we trust the county has a plan for replacing them when the time comes.
But in the county’s towns, some sewer lines, in particular, are perhaps a century old. And while they aren’t failing, they are cracking, allowing stormwater to seep in. Town customers then pay, needlessly, to treat that water when it makes its way to a sewage-treatment plant.
County commissioners don’t often talk about that subject, at least not in public. But some are wary of a countywide water and sewer authority because they don’t think customers in, say, the Brogden community should have to pay to repair or replace sewer lines that Princeton or Smithfield or Selma might have neglected for too long.
Across Johnston’s many towns, the dollar amount could be staggering.
But already the county is helping its towns with their infrastructure needs. Commissioners recently allocated dollars to Princeton for some infrastructure work, and they’ve created a pool of money that towns can apply for. In other words, the county has already set a precedent for cooperation.
It’s true too that residents in some parts of Johnston already help meet needs in others. Johnston builds most of its new schools west of Interstate 95 because that’s where muchof the residential growth is. But taxpayers in Kenly, Micro, Pine Level, Princeton and elsewhere help build schools in Clayton, Cleveland, Archer Lodge and McGee’s Crossroads. We don’t hear commissioners fret about that, nor should they.
Finally, without help of one kind or another, some Johnston towns won’t be able to rehab their aging water and sewer systems. And at least figuratively, those towns will dry up, unable to grow because they won’t have reliable water and sewer. Property values will fall, robbing the towns and the county of tax receipts.
We’re not forgiving the towns for their neglect. While they were spending money on other needs — and some wants — towns should have been putting some money in the ground.
But neither are we willing to condemn towns to stagnation, or worse, because of the mistakes of past leaders. And we don’t think County Commissioners should be willing to either.
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