After being elected to the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners in 2004, Jeff Dixon said his predecessor on the commission would often remind him of the importance of having all county residents on Pasquotank water.
Dixon’s predecessor was his father, Jimmie, who served 18 years on the Pasquotank Board before being succeeded by his son.
Early in Jimmie Dixon’s tenure, Pasquotank formed a county water department but couldn’t extend service to the Newland area. That’s because it was already part of the South Mills Water Authority in Camden.
“During his terms, (Pasquotank commissioners) asked time after time after time about buying it, but they (South Mills Water Authority officials) wouldn’t let it go,” Jeff Dixon said. The commission board his father served on “wanted all of Pasquotank but they couldn’t get Newland.”
When he was elected to succeed his father as one of Pasquotank’s three at-large commissioners, Jeff Dixon recalls his dad saying to him, “Son, if you do anything before you get off that board please get the rest of the Pasquotank customers.’”
That day is coming soon. Pasquotank commissioners last week officially approved buying the Pasquotank portion of the South Mills Water Association for roughly $1.4 million.
“This has been on the Pasquotank commissioners’ bucket list for a long time,” said Jeff Dixon, who did not seek re-election and will be leaving the board himself in December. “I’ve had several former commissioners call me and say, ‘Good gosh, it finally happened.’”
Work will now begin on integrating the Pasquotank portion of the South Mills into the county’s system.
The county will buy the water storage and water distribution systems that serve the Newland area of Pasquotank. The county will use water department capital reserves to pay for the acquisition.
When the deal is completed it will add 952 customers to the Pasquotank water system.
With the new customers, the county is expected to see an annual revenue increase by about $400,000. It is expected that integrating the new customers into Pasquotank’s water system could cost as much as $1 million.
Commissioners also approved a $27,300 contract with Green Engineering to study the upgrades needed to integrate the new customers into the county’s water system.
When the new customers are brought into the county’s water system will be determined after the study is complete. The study is expected be complete in four to six weeks.
“We are getting ready to do a ‘physical’ out there so we know exactly what we have to do,” said Rodney Tart of Green Engineering, referring to a top-to-bottom review. “There will be a transition strategy, and it will be done and it will work. There will be an agreed-upon time. There is a lot riding on this study so we know what we have to do.”
Some undersized piping may have to be replaced and all the new Pasquotank customers will have to get new water meters before the water is turned on.
“You want to make sure the cash register is right when you open the store,” Tart said, again resorting to a figure of speech to describe the integration process. “You want your adding machine working at the bank (water department). You want to do that, got to do that.”
A booster pump station could also be needed. If it isn’t, then the county may only need to spend around $850,000 to integrate the systems.
“You are going to spend some money on South Mills (acquisition) but you will be receiving more income,” Tart said. “One of the first things we are going to be looking at is will the (Pasquotank) system fill the (water storage) tank and keep it full in the peak periods, or will we have to put a booster station there?’’
Tart told commissioners the county has fewer water employees than the industry standard. He said the acquisition will require the county to have more water employees.
“I would say it wouldn’t be a lot, and I don’t see it as a big cost,” Tart said.
County Manager Sparty Hammett said Pasquotank should see a return on its investment in taking on the Newland water customers in just over six years.