PRINCEVILLE — In its first drastic move to get Princeville's finances back in order, the Local Government Commission turned over the town's dysfunctional water and sewer collection to Edgecombe County effective Dec. 1.
Edgecombe County will be responsible for billing customers, collecting payment, disconnecting past due accounts and managing the town's water and sewer system.
In a letter issued to Princeville's water and sewer customer, Sharon Edmundson, LGC director fiscal management section, who is also acting as the town's finance officers, pointed out that Princeville will remain the owner of the system and will be in charge of setting rates for the services provided.
Bills will be mailed the last day of the month and payment will be due on the 15th of each month. Bills not paid by the 15th will be assessed a $10 late fee. Bills not paid by the 25th are considered delinquent and will be charged $30. The $30 fee will be charged whether or not service is disconnected.
Allowing customers to become delinquent more than one month is one of the problems that caused Princeville's water and sewer collection to become dysfunctional. According to a town document in September 2011, uncollected water and sewer funds totaled more than $50,000. Of that, more than 50 customers' bills ranged from $200 to more than $1,000 including four customers that were billed a combined total of $5,000."
Aiding the town's condition was a policy that passed by a 3-2 vote in April 2010 that allowed citizens to make partial payments on their bill and continue with service. Some citizens apparently took advantage of the policy and bills escalated.
In June, 200 citizens were placed on a cutoff list for delinquent payement. In July the LGC took over the town's finances and deemed its water and sewer collection rate was in disarray. T. Vance Holloman, deputy treasurer of N.C. Department of Treasuer, reported that the town water and sewer fund balance was negative more than $298,000.
Hollman addressed the county board of commissioners during its September meeting asking them to look into taking over Princeville entire water and sewer system. The board agreed. One month later Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates addressed the board and asked them not to take over the system.
Commissioner Ann Howell also attended the meeting. Although she didn't speak before the county board, she was for the county taking over the system. When she received the news that the county had agreed to take over the billing and manage the system, she was overjoyed.
"As a commissioner, words can't describe how I feel about the county assisting Princeville," she said. "It's bad when you need help and you don't know you need help. That's the problem that we have with some of our elected officials who don't want the county to take over. Because of the policies that were voted on by the majority, we are in this predicament. This is the first big step in getting the town back on track. The citizens will benefit from this."
During the September meeting, Edgecombe County Chairman Leonard Wiggins said the county is committed to helping the LGC's problem with the town. The county board agreed to perform an analysis that will provide information to determine whether or not it is feasible for the county to take over the system.
"We believe that the county can manage the system in a cost efficient manner that will bring cost savings to the town and improve services to Princeville utility customers."
After Nov. 20, customers must call 252-823-3042 for water and sewer concerns.