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New Option Is
CALABASH SANITARY DISTRICT PROPOSFD
Offered For Sewer Service
To 'Old Calabash '
BY ERIC CARLSON
Residents of Calabash were asked
to consider a new method of provid
ing downtown sewer service last
week ? one that would avoid partici
pation in a regional sewer authority
without scrapping nearly two years
of costly engineering work
A crowd of about 120 people,
nearly all from the Carolina Shores
area of District II. attended a public
forum Nov. 10 to discuss three pro
posals for collecting and treating
sewage from District I.
The group heard a presentation
from Billy Burnett, owner of the
Carolina Blythe utility company,
which currently provides water and
sewer service to Carolina Shores. He
wants the town to purchase the sys
tem for $4.5 million and expand it to
serve the downtown area.
Also discussed was the town's on
going plan to join Sunset Beach in
building a regional sewerage system
to serve both towns. As currently
crafted, the proposal calls for the
towns to fund the project with about
$10 million in state and federal
grants and loans through a joint
South Brunswick Water and Sewer
Many residents of Carolina
Shores have voiced opposition to the
idea of an authority, fearing that it
could grow beyond the control of
the people it is intended to serve.
Which is why a third proposal has
surfaced calling for the creation of a
Calabash Sanitary District.
Under the new plan outlined by
Commissioner Jon Sanborn
Wednesday night, the sanitary dis
trict would leave the Town of
" ...If (Burnett) has a business that's
generating that much money, why would
he want to sell it?"
? Accountant Johnny Britt
Calabash out of the sewer business
and financially obligate only those
who receive its services. It would al
so allow the joint sewer system to
go forward as planned without com
mitting the town's tax base to any
loan agreements signed by the re
"It (the sewer district) would be
eligible for the same grant and loan
funding. It would not slow down or
require us to re-do any of the exist
ing engineering documents. And it
can be done quickly," Sanborn told
Under state law, a sewer district
can be formed by gathering petitions
from 51 percent of the residents or
landowners in a designated area,
such as downtown Calabash. If ap
proved by the Brunswick County
Commissioners, they would set a
public hearing on the proposal.
The county board also would
choose three to five people to sit on
an initial sanitary district board with
staggered terms of office. Elections
would be held to select new mem
bers of the district board, which
would oversee the construction and
operation of the sewer system and
set rates for its customers.
In response to a question from the
audience, Sanborn said that if a sani
tary district were formed, "there
would be no reason for the (own of
Calabash to be a member of the au
thority. The authority could go for
ward with its plans and work with
the sanitary district."
Sanborn said that the new plan al
so would allow the downtown area
to get sewer service more quickly
than with the purchase of Carolina
During the discussion of that op
tion. Engineer Joseph Hill told the
gathering that he had inspected the
Carolina Blythe system and found
the water system, the sewage treat
ment plant and the sewage collec
tion lines to be "in good shape."
Accountant Johnny Britt said he
had reviewed data provided by Bu
rnett which show that the town
could purchase his utility company
for $4.5 million, spend another $1.2
million to extend sewer service to
the downtown area, pay back a 30
year loan at 5.25 percent and make a
profit while charging lower rates.
"The figures show cash flows in
excess of debt service, but we have
no way of verifying his estimate of
expenses," Britt said. "There don't
seem to be any additional operating
or maintenance expenses with the
$1.2 million expansion and we have
some questions about that.
"We also wonder, if he has a busi
ness that's generating that much
money, why would he want to sell
it?" said Britt.
Burnett said Carolina Blythe has
"outgrown being a private system"
and could be run more efficiently as
a public utility. He said the town
could charge lower rates and still
make a profit because it would not
be subject to the same taxes and reg
ulations as a private company.
"If we don't sell the utility, we're
going to go up with the rates,"
Burnett said. "If you don't buy it,
it's going to be for sale to someone
else. It might not be in your best in
terest who buys it."
Jim Billups of Powell Associates,
engineers for the proposed joint
sewer project, said the towns' finan
cial feasibility study for the project
has been reviewed and approved by
the state, paving the way for ap
proval of the grant and loan pack
Asked why Calabash should em
bark on such a large-scale system,
Billups said that "because of the
economy of scale," a bigger cus
tomer base will allow a regional
sewer system to charge lower rates
than a small one.
He also cautioned that if the town
withdraws its current funding appli
cations, it would take "at least a year
and perhaps longer" to re-qualify for
grants and loans to expand the
Carolina Blythe system.
Sanborn asked the audience to
consider the comments made at the
meeting, to read the informational
handouts provided and to make their
opinions known to members of the
STAFF PHOTO BY ERIC CARLSON
BILLY BURNETT, owner of Carolina Blythe, tells a group of
about 120 Calabash residents last week that the $4. 5 million pur
chase of his company would be the best of three options being con
sidered as a means of sewering the town 's restaurant district.
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