KFP: Senate Bill 472 could affect city utility rates

by David Anderson

The members of the N.C. House of Representatives are scheduled to review a bill today that, if passed by the General Assembly, could have a dramatic impact on Kinston utility rates, according to city officials.

“The City of Kinston is united in its opposition to this bill and we would like for it to be defeated,” Mayor B.J. Murphy wrote in a recent letter to the General Assembly, plus Senate President pro tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

The local bill, promoted by local Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, is titled “Kinston Public Enterprises” and requires the city to give equal access to utility customers living inside and outside the city limits.

Water and sewer customers living outside Kinston are typically charged different — and higher — rates than inside customers. City officials defend this practice to cover the added cost of maintaining infrastructure outside the city, built when county residents had no other way to obtain water and sewer service.

LaRoque has said he is working to equalize utility rates for Kinston customers, but city officials have expressed concerns this could cause a dramatic rise in water and sewer rates to make up the difference.

If the NC General Assembly wants to engage in a public debate about municipalities who offer water and sewer services to outside customers, then a local bill is not the answer,” Murphy wrote in his letter. “This local bill would force the City to arbitrarily raise rates at a time of economic peril.”

The bill has been placed on the House’s calendar for its next session, which begins at 7 p.m. today.

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 ordanderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

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