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CARD RENAMED COMMISSIONER
Calabash Says No T
o 'Ultimatum' On Carolina Blvthe Purchase
BY ERIC CARLSON
Calabash Commissioners on
Tuesday agreed to tell sewer system
owner Billy Burnett that the board
cannot meet his "ultimatum" warn
ing that he will look for other buyers
without a commitment from the
town to purchase his Carolina
Blythe Utility within 60 days.
And in another matter, the board
voted 3-to-l, with Bob Noe dissent
ing. to name former commissioner
Ray Card to serve out the unexpired
term of A1 Leisey, who resigned "for
personal reasons" last month.
The board's decision not to go
along with Burnett's demand for an
immediate commitment on the $4.5
million purchase of his company
came after the committee chairman
who recommended the deal told the
commissioners not to bother trying
to explain to Burnett why they won't
agree to the arrangement.
"He told me that after two years
of frustration, tomorrow is his dead
line date," said committee head Gere
Dale. "Unless the town is ready to
move forward, you might as well
tear the letter up. Don't even waste
the 29 cents for a stamp to send it to
In a July 26 letter to Calabash
Mayor George Anderson, Burnett
said he "tried for two years to ac
commodate Calabash in the pur
chase of our water and sewer sys
tems" by offering to finance the pur
chase for 30 years at S percent inter
est. But after learning that town
board would have to vote its final
approval of the deal. Burnett wrote
that he did not sense a "full commit
ment" to purchase his company.
Burnett asked the town to provide
"a firm commitment to consummate
this transaction within 60 days" of
Aug. 10, the day after the board
meeting. "Should we not receive this
commitment by this date, we will
pursue the sale of our utilities to oth
ers," lie wrote.
Several board members voiced
doubts about the possibility of meet
ing Burnett's demands.
Commissioner Ed Schaack said
that because the sewer system serves
customers outside the town limits of
Calabash, the N.C Public Utilities
Commission would require the town
to hold a referendum, which would
significantly delay the proposed pur
Schaack also questioned Burnett's
insistence that he be released from
any liability after the first five years
of the purchase agreement have
"What if something comes up af
ter five years and the town ends up
getting sued?" Schaack asked. "If
he's so sure about the operation,
why won't he stand by it for the
whole 30 years?"
"I just don't see how we can meet
his ultimatum,** said Noe. "If he says
he needs a commitment from us this
date, we just can't do it"
In a letter to Burnett unanimously
authorized by the board. Mayor Pto
Tem Jon Sanbom told the company
owner that "Calabash is not able to
provide you with a firm commit
ment to consummate the sale/pur
chase of Carolina Blythe Utility
within 60 days of this date, as there
are a number of unanswered ques
Listed among the town's concerns
was Burnett's request that the town
"buy our stock and provide us with a
deficiency mortgage." Town
Attorney Mike Ramos said such
mortgage arrangements by a town
"are clearly not allowed" under
North Carolina law.
Ramos said that while it might be
legal for the town to purchase the
stock of a private company instead
of its assets, the N.C. Local
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Government Commission "would
took very disapprovingly" on such a
deal. The LGC must give its ap
proval for the town to buy the com
-It's just the kind of red flag
they're looking for," Ramos said.
"They're trying to keep towns from
getting in over their head. If it turns
out that in the past this company has
gone out and polluted Calabash
Creek or something, you would be
assuming an enormous liability."
The town's letter to Burnett notes
that "there is a strong indication that
the state treasurer will not support
our application" to purchase
Carolina Blythe. It also raises the
question of whether a referendum
might be required.
"If the stale treasurer's office will
not support the application, again
the town would be foolish to contin
ue," the letter concludes. "This mat
ter is not a simple discussion. The
interwoven issues must be resolved
to make an educated decision."
Schaack made a motion to send
the letter to Burnett. "If that doesn't
satisfy him, let him respond and
we'll see where the chips fly," he
Noe and Schaack were joined by
commissioners Forrest King and
Keith Hardee in authorizing the re
sponse to Burnett's letter. As chair
man of the meeting in Mayor
Anderson's absence, Sanborn did
not vote. Commissioner Teddy
Altreuter did not attend.
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