Repairs could cost Newbern $26 million

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

After a Saturday afternoon meeting on Jan. 14, problems with the Newbern water system have yet to be resolved.

“This has been going on for a long time. Who can we point the finger at? Who knows,” Representative Ralph Howard said. “Right now, the funding issue is the main issue and unless we can get some appropriation funds, nothing will be solved. But this is not a situation where we can step in and get money now.”

Howard said the county needed to apply for funds to spend this year in 2005 and that applications for 2007 funds are currently being accepted.

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“They are telling me it’s going to take $26 million to fix the problems in the system,” Senator Bobby Singleton said. “I told them I need a plan so that I can know what the money is going to be spent on. I can’t just go asking for money without a plan.”

Singleton said he plans on looking for funding options after Artesian Water Systems provides him with a spending plan.

A spokesperson from Artesian Water Systems was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday.

“I have nothing against the company running the water system,” Howard said. “It just would’ve been in the best judgment for the county to run it’s own water.”

Although Singleton said the company and water board are the main parties responsible for fixing the problem, Howard said a collaborative effort involving all community officials is needed in order to resolve the issue.

“The representative and senators are just liaisons to help the county in a time of need,” Singleton said. “I am willing to help them and give them advice, but they are responsible for the day to day operations. I will assist them in any way I can to get the money.”

“For me personally, this is a priority, but people have to remember it’ll take everyone working together and using all the resources,” Howard said.

“I have two focuses. The first is to find the money to fix this problem and the second is to figure out how the problem started and to stop it from happening again.”

Because Newbern residents sometimes lack water for hours at a time without prior notice, Howard said he plans to work hard to stop it from happening although “it’s not to the point of crisis.”

“We will make progress,” Howard guarantees residents. “I don’t take public funds lightly. If they are paying for these services, they should get them without problems.”