Without the rate increase, the county could face defaulting on the loans leaving the USDA holding the lien. Each of the systems operates separately and is a stand alone entity, but Sunnyslope, NORMAC and Camelot are governed by the same board.
Commissioners are expected to take action on a controversial rate increase that, if passed, will raise rates in the three residential neighborhoods served by the Camden County sewer district.
The rate increase is listed on the meeting agenda for Wednesday, June 30, less than a week after the county held two meetings to discuss the proposed rate increases with residents of Sunnyslope, NORMAC and Camelot. The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 10 a.m.
All three residential neighborhoods are served by wastewater treatment systems that fall under the sewer district.
In all three subdistricts, the proposed rate increase will have residents paying a fixed rate instead of paying for what they use. That has angered some residents who say it is unfair and places a burden on those who use less.
It has also raised questions about how the sewer district has amassed approximately $28,000 in debt – primarily from the Sunnyslope project – since 2005.
According to county officials and members of the sewer board, they don’t have any choice but to look at the new rate structure. The United States Department of Agriculture, one of the funding sources for the projects and the first leinholder, has said the current rate structure isn’t working.
Without the rate increase, the county could face defaulting on the loans, leaving the USDA holding the lien.
Each of the systems operates separately and is a stand-alone entity, but Sunnyslope, NORMAC and Camelot are governed by the same board. The board has representatives from all three systems.
“None of the districts were self sufficient, so that is why they had to raise rates,” Camden County Presiding Commissioner Carolyn Loraine said. “Revenue has to cover all of the sewer expenses, the operation and maintenance, plus it has to pay back the bond and loan repayment.”
Loraine said the rate increase proposal has been expected for a while, and has been proposed under the advice of the USDA.
“There has been an issue with meeting all of the obligations. Right now Camelot—the first year they pay interest only on repaying the loan, but in September they will have to pay principal on the loans and the bond payment,” Loraine explained.
The Sunny Slope and NORMAC districts are already paying for principals and bond payments, which accounted for an initial $10 base rate increase.
“Revenues were not meeting their expenses, plain and simple,” Loraine said.
The county is also looking at a shut off policy for residents who don’t pay their bills. Although the county has gone to small claims court and garnished wages of some for non-payment, there has never been any enforcement of the shut off policy that disconnects users for failure to pay their bill.