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Council lowers water rate

Residents of Brightwater and adjoining neighborhoods will see a reduction in their water bills of almost $10 a month under a new funding agreement the Hendersonville City Council approved last week.

After a closed session with the city attorney, the council voted to take $249,082 from the utility reserves fund and lower the Brightwater bills from $25.38 to $16.77 a month. Brightwater customers pay the surcharge to help retire the debt on a loan the city received to extend water to the subdivision, which had been served by a neighborhood water system that failed in 2005.
The Brightwater Homeowners Association secured a grant of $561,000 and the city received a grant for $293,000 to install city lines. The project cost $1.4 million, and the city borrowed the balance from a state fund. Under a repayment plan the City Council adopted in May of 2012, Brightwater ratepayers were to pay $25.38 a month for 20 years to retire the loan.
But Brightwater residents continued to object to the arrangement, saying that the HOA had gotten the loan and had not received credit for that in the calculation. City Manager John Connet said the EPA, which had originally granted money for the project, agreed to give the city the remaining amount, of $250,000.
"We're using city money to reduce their payments and then the EPA will make us whole if we do a project that benefits that system," he said.
Councilman Ron Stephens said he was glad the dispute had been resolved.
"I give credit to John Connet for finding that money, and us giving it to them," he said. "This will close that chapter, and frankly I think it has been not handled well in the past and I give the credit to John for straightening this out. One guy has made an issue of it. I don't think it was handled properly and it seems that in the past when somebody gets ticked off ... they just cut him out. John has taken a different approach and the proper approach."
Brightwater resident Donald Goldstein has been the squeakiest of squeaky of wheels, complaining repeatedly to the council about the Brightwater rate, saying the city had not been fair in its calculation. He was traveling out of town and could not be reached for comment.
Jim Andrus, the founding president of the Brightwater HOA, said homeowners are happy with the settlement.
"We're all going in the right direction," he said. "We had a grant and we didn't get all of it. The EPA held it up. Now that's been released, we're happy with it. They finally released it and the city decided to go forward with it."
City officials are working on a letter to Brightwater customers about the reduced rate, which also lowers the lump sum loan payoff option from $4,995 to $3,574 for existing customers and $4, 071 for new customers.
"We basically have an agreement," Andrus said. "In fact, I'm going to help write it up. I think there'll be a letter out certainly by the end of next week."