During its regular meeting Monday night, Edgecombe County Board of Commissioner voted unanimously to take over most utility operations for the Town of Princeville — water and sewer collections, maintaining the water and sewer system and collecting the town garbage — at the request of the Local Government Commission.
Princeville Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates fought the takeover, but her plea failed.
Using the same town’s rates, the county will begin reading Princeville's water meters on Nov. 15 and mailing the first set of bills on Nov. 30. Bills will be mailed the last working day of each month.
Princeville has 618 water customers, 775 sewer customers and 574 garbage customers. The town's garbage collection was handled by Waste Industries – one of several vendors to whom the town was reportedly delinquent for a period earlier this year.
For performing the services, the county will receive $10,000 per month. The remaining funds will be sent to LGC, the state agency that took control of Princeville's finances in July. County Manager Lorenzo Carmon said no additional personnel will be hired.
Envirolink provided maintenance service for the town's water and sewer operation at a rate of $13,000 per year without billing and collecting funds. Carmon pointed out that with the county providing the services, the town will save $36,000 per year.
Everette-Oates argued the takeover would take jobs from the town and would result in the closure of the town hall.
Vance Hollman, deputy treasurer for the LGC, denied that claim.
“We have no intention of having the town charter revoked and the town hall will not be shut down. I can assure you of that.”
Holloman explained that when the LGC took over, the town’s account receivables totaled $150,000 and the town billed $600,000. A good number of customers were delinquent and some owed hundreds of dollars he said.
"It is a very small system and beyond that it was not being managed properly," Hollman told the board. ... "It needed to be a part of a larger system.
Princeville commissioner Isabelle Purvis-Andrews, who also attended the meeting, was also against the county's taking over the collections. She said LGC reported the town collected $67,000 in the July-August cycle and $68,000 in the August-September cycle. She claims the $67,000 was funds the town collected before the LGC takeover.
"We collected just as much as they were doing. I don't see no reason that they took the books in the first place," Purvis-Andrews said.
In a last ditch effort to pursue the board to not take over the collection, Everette-Oates repeatedly accused LGC for not notifying the Princeville board before asking the county to look into the issue.
"LGC has not met with us as board or as a manger or a mayor," she said. "I think that is totally disrespectful. We are the elected officials of the town.
She asked the county board to consider allowing LGC and her board to discuss the issue before voting on it. Her plea fell on deaf ears.
"We don't do anything except for what we are instructed to do by LGC because they are in control right now," said Commissioner Wayne Hines.
County Commissioner Charlie Harrell pointed out that the county is not taking over the system, but is only providing a contract service at the request of LGC. He also asked Carmon to call a meeting with LGC and the Princeville board to discuss the issue.