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Proposed fee increase to help fund Martin County water treatment plant

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WILLIAMSTON, N.C. - $27 million, that's how much the Martin County Regional Water and Sewer Authority treatment plant is costing the county.

And some of that is coming out of tax payer's pockets.
     
About three years ago, two of the water districts and the Town of Williamston started collecting three dollars a month from customers. The money is helping fund what some call the "Martin County Space Needle".
     
Now, the Authority wants to increase the fee from three dollars to five dollars to help fund a two-million-gallon per day water treatment plant.

"It's nice to see improvements since the town appears to be growing," said Styron Bond Jr., Williamston resident. Bond has lived in Williamston all his life. He says this project is much needed and he doesn't mind paying more for it. "Of course everybody needs more money, but two dollars a month isn't going to make much difference."

In the late 90's the state determined groundwater in eastern North Carolina was overused, leading to depletion. The result? Nearly every county in the east was designated as part of the Central Coastal Plain Capacity Use Area, meaning they're regulated on how much water is used. For Martin County, it has to cut use by 75-percent.

"The aquifer was being overused,” explained David Bone, County Manager. “There was concern about salt water encroachment into the aquifer, so this will diversify our water resources and give us good clean water for years to come.”

"We've been watching it and it certainly is amazing to see how much salt water was working its way in," said Eric Pearson, Town Administrator.

The plants intake station will be on the Roanoke River.

"We've got good water capacity, not only for our current customers and current businesses and industries, but we'll have sufficient capacity to recruit additional industry and jobs to Martin County," said Bone.

Half of the funding is from a USDA loan. The rest comes from grants and customer fees. While the fee is controversial for community members, folks like Bond say too many people take water for granted and it’s something the county needs as it moves forward.

The town council and county commissioners will discuss the fee increase next month at meetings and go from there.
     
As far as the progress of the plant, construction should be completed by next spring and the plant will be ready for use by July of next year.

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