Loss of major Williamston employer results in water rate hike


WILLIAMSTON, Martin County - The decision by Parkdale Mills to close its yarn manufacturing plant in Williamston this month not only resulted in the loss of nearly 100 jobs, but has resulted in an increase in water rates starting next month for area residents, the town said Thursday.

Worse, even more significant hikes are projected for 2018.

Because the Parkdale Mills plant was the largest water consumer in the Martin County Water and Sewer Authority (MCRWASA), the significant decrease in use will mean the brunt of fixed costs will be bore up by remaining area businesses and residents.

"Our hearts go out to the employees and families affected," County Manager David Bone said. "The plant closure also has ripple effects throughout the community -- affecting other businesses, the general local economy and the local tax base."

The biggest single cost is the loan repayments made annually for the Roanoke River water treatment plant, which accounts for nearly 45 percent of the annual MCRWASA budget. Williamston interim Town Administrator Brent Kanipe said by holding off on capital projects and trimming other expenses, the amount of the rate increase was reduced by 30 percent of what it would have originally been.

As it is, wholesale water rates, effective July 1, are moving from $4.75 per 1,000 gallons to $5.15 per 1,000 gallons. In Williamston, the rates increased by $1.15 for both the base rate (to move to $18.65) and on each additional 1,000 gallons used (to move to $9.25). Williamston Districts 1 and 2 saw rates increase by $1.25 for both the base rate (to move to $27) and on each additional 1,000 gallons used (to move to $11.25).

In unincorporated Martin County, the rates increased $2 on the base rate, to move to $42. The $8.50 for every additional 1,000 gallons of water used remains unchanged. Unincorporated Martin County has higher rates due to more infrastructure that is being paid off by bonds.

Further increases are expected next summer, the town said.

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"We ask for everyone's patience and understanding as we deal with this challenge," Bone said. "Unfortunately, our options are limited."

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