Rhodhiss gears up for transition

Jun. 11, 2014 @ 10:15 AM

On the same night that the Rhodhiss Board of Commissioners approved a budget that raised water and sewer rates by 30 percent — and heard a word of caution about the uncertain prospects of a water and sewer grant that could spare residents bigger rate hikes — they welcomed a new town manager, in spirit if not in person.

Arthur “Art” Delaney, who currently is traveling in New York, will take over next month for Town Manager Barbara Harmon, who has been town manager since 2007 and is retiring in mid-July. Mayor Rick Justice said that while Delaney is a “stranger to our town,” he is familiar with the financial hardships Rhodhiss is enduring and is working hard to help the town succeed.

“We’re nearing the end of one era,” Justice said. “It can’t be an easy transition. It just cannot be because I’ll be the first to admit Barbara has spoiled this board, and she’s bent over backwards to help us. We’re heading for a transition time. I ask people to pray for what’s going to take place.”

The 2014-15 budget that the commissioners approved Monday includes a 30 percent increase to water and sewer rates. The increase is still not enough to bring in enough revenue to balance what it costs the town to run the water and sewer system, so approximately $57,000 will be taken from savings to make up the difference, Harmon said. The 30 percent increase caused an outcry from Rhodhiss residents, but without it the town would have had to pull more than $100,000 from savings.

Total revenue and spending in the budget is $662,273.

Rhodhiss officials hope that the town will qualify for a Community Development Block Grant to help fund water and sewer improvements that would greatly reduce the yearly costs of running the system, which is escalated by water leaks and by groundwater and stormwater seeping into the sewage and boosting the sewage-treatment costs. But even if the town gets a grant, the town must pay for the projects first, then the grant will reimburse the town for its costs. Harmon said that means the town would take money from reserves for the initial bills.

“We do have enough in our reserve funds to keep that going, I hope,” Harmon said.