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Sunset Beach approves 10-year payback period for sewer

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SUNSET BEACH—Town council last week discussed a payback period for the town’s estimated $33 million sewer project slated to launch next year, with completion by 2011.

Town attorney Michael Isenberg said, following recent discussion with Brunswick County Attorney Huey Marshall, there is no way it could be done for more than 10 years.

He said at the Aug. 4 meeting a new act allowing for 30 years “doesn’t apply in our situation.”

A tax district could be set up in which people pay a separate tax.

He said it depends on bonds, if such bonds are issued.

Brunswick County Finance Director Ann Hardy has been authorized to look into different methods and discuss them with the local government commission.

Parker said county commissioners have expressed some reluctance about a 30-year bond.

“It hurts your bond ratings,” he said. “They want to have a lot of flexibility for the next 30 years. They said they would consider it, though.”

Parker added county officials are to notify him as soon as they are ready to make a recommendation. He said the town could get a better interest rate and terms by not going with a bond, which is why they’re looking at bank financing.

He said establishing a special tax district or bonds may require a vote.

“We’re looking into making it easier for everybody, as long as it’s not financially detrimental to the county,” he said.

Councilman Ron Watts said he would like for the terms to be as long as possible.

“Fifteen, 20, 30—we would be open to that, too,” he said.

Isenberg reiterated the county would prefer an assessment method over three, six or 10 years.

“We could put a piece of paper out that they vigorously pursue this other option,” councilman Lou DeVita said.

Council approved councilman Len Steiner’s motion they authorize the county to proceed, with a 10-year payback period as the most desirable.

“We ask they continue to aggressively pursue other methods over a longer period of time, especially a special assessment district,” Steiner said.

Town administrator Gary Parker said anyone in Sunset Beach who meets the 80 percent median family, low-income status two and a half years from now—“just under $36,000 a year for a family in our case”—could qualify for federal assistance and reimbursement of their hookup costs. He said that includes plumbing and septic tank disposal.

“We’d have to gather their income information to substantiate they meet that threshold,” he said. “If they had to pay $1,000 to $3,000 for this hookup, that could be entirely reimbursed through this program.”

The maximum grant, he added, is $30,000.

During public comment time, former town councilman Ed Gore urged council to consider pursuing assessment alternatives as sewer plans proceed.

“The longer it’s delayed, the more it will cost,” he said.

Billy Ehling of Shoreline Woods asked council to continue pursuing sewer assessment grant possibilities. He said he had been told no one from the town had applied.

“If you don’t ask, how are they going to know you need it?” he said.

Parker said a number of efforts have been made about granting.

“I myself spent several hours looking into this and making telephone calls,” he said. “I would be glad to share that with you.”

Parker said there don’t appear to be any grant opportunities out there, adding perhaps Congressman Mike McIntyre could help.

“One important thing people need to understand, when you do a sewer infrastructure program there are a limited number of available economic development projects or community development programs,” Parker said. “The days of granting for infrastructure projects have largely disappeared, unless you’re in a community with low to moderate income, which Sunset Beach is not.”

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.