June 19 - A few hundred people showed up for the second of two public hearings being held to review the proposed Roanoke Island Water Expansion project. Fire Department representative Ken Daniels kicked off the presentation by asking the overflowing crowd if they would still oppose the project if they did not have to pay for it. Only a small percentage of the crowd raised their hands. Ken continued that the project proposal was initiated by the Fire Department to address a high Class 9 insurance rating due to homes being further than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant. With the proposed system, a lower Class 5 rating would be approved and on a $200,000 valued piece of property, insurance savings would total about $638 per year. The town is due to be re-rated in 2008. A hydrant system would lessen the costs of the fire department and without the water expansion the volunteer fire department would have to move to a paid department. He assured the crowd that this proposed project was not about developers wanting water. Ken Flatt, Dare County Utilities Director, then went on to explain the technical aspects and costs of the expansion. A three million storage tank would be added and a 300,000 gallon elevated storage tank would be constructed on the North end of the island. Water lines and meters would be installed in the public right-of-ways and customers would be responsible for the installation of the water line from their house to the meter line. He noted that the water would come from a safe, regulated supply and assist with fire protection. The average cost to all homeowners would be about $3,000 each which includes the initial impact fee, connection fee and deposit fee. In order to pay for the system, it would be mandatory that all owners of improved property pay the fees although it would not be mandatory that they hook up to the water line. If they chose to continue using their well water, they would still be assessed a minimum water fee of about $10.00 per quarter. Therein lays the controversy. Over 80% of the speakers that addressed the Commissioners spoke in opposition of the project. Many spoke of the financial hardship the $3,000 fee would create especially since they are very happy with their well water. They complained that their well water tasted better that the Town of Manteo’s water and as one speaker put it, “I don’t want you to take my water and sell it back to me after you ruin it!” Many also spoke about future development and higher densities with a central water system.
Dare Board Chairman Warren Judge responded to the crowd’s concerns by saying that the Board of Commissioners would take their comments under advisement and look into the cost of just adding lines to support a hydrant system.