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Former commissioners speak out against water sale
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The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority (NCWSA) will present the team it has selected to perform due diligence to the Newton County Board of Commissioners during Tuesday’s public meeting at the Newton County Historic Courthouse.

On October 4, both the BOC and NCWSA met to discuss the authority’s interest in purchasing the county’s water assets.

The first step in a possible purchase was the appraisal of all the county’s water infrastructure resources. The NCWSA received a 4-1 vote by the BOC to go forward with selecting an appraisal firm, and now will look for the BOC’s approval in having the firm evaluate the worth of the county’s reservoir, water treatment plants and other resources.

The lone vote against the NCWSA moving forward back in October was District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson. Friday, Henderson presented a letter to the rest of the BOC, signed by 13 former members of the county’s commission, speaking out against selling the county’s water system. Signing the letter was Harold Cobb, Jerry Prosser, LeAnne Long, Billy Smith, Hubert White, Ester Fleming, Danny Stone, Aaron Varner, Monty Laster, Mort Ewing, Tim Fleming, Ronnie Dimsdale and Harold Ayers.

“Selling the County’s water system, Newton County Water System, to the Water and Sewerage Authority WILL NOT serve the best interest of our community,” the letter said.

The letter detailed the vote to build the 820-acre Lake Varner, which was completed in 1992. Water contracts with Covington, Oxford, Porterdale, Mansfield and the NCWSA, the letter said, will not end until mid-2024, unless the system is sold by the BOC. Currently, the letter said, water is sold at cost to those cities and the NCWSA.

“Before the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority can pay Newton County a fair price for the water system, the Authority must borrow tens of millions of dollars,” the letter said. “To repay this debt, the Water Authority must significantly raise the wholesale water rates the County now charges the cities of Covington, Oxford, Porterdale, Mansfield and Newborn.

“Hopefully the millions paid to the Board of Commissioners would be well spent but we are concerned the money would not be spent to improve and maintain our water system, or to keep city water rates low.”