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Hatcher withdraws resignation

Cumberland farmer Dr. Roger Hatcher has withdrawn his resignation as chairman of the county’s water and sewer advisory committee and has rejoined the body.

“He withdrew his resignation, and the board never accepted it,” County Administrator Vivian Seay Giles said. “Mutually, it was withdrawn.”

In early April, Hatcher, the longtime committee chairman, said he resigned because of the inaccuracy of budget numbers and an incident during the March board of supervisors meeting.

“I’ll tell you right up front I don’t agree with the way they (did it) …,” Hatcher said of the board’s handling of his reinstatement. “But, after the raucous meeting that (District Two Supervisor and Board Chairman Lloyd) Banks had on the … tax increase (on April 26) … He came up to me after that meeting and asked me if I would reconsider. And I told him, ‘Not really, but I’d think about it.’ He said they really would appreciate it if I would do it.”

Banks wouldn’t comment on Hatcher’s reinstatement.

“I agreed just to let things slide like it never happened,” Hatcher said.

He said he’s working with the remainder of the committee as chairman on potential increases in sewer and water fees.

In May, county supervisors in Cumberland voted 4-1 to adopt the fiscal year 2016-17 budget — one which includes a 14 percent increase in utility revenues.

“We haven’t finalized (the increases), but tentatively, what was agreed to (by the committee), was an increase in sewer rates from $28 a month to $33 (a month) for the residential users,” Hatcher said.

Before any changes are made, the board of supervisors will have to hold a public hearing and advertise the proposed rates.

“On their (customers) water bill, for the water used over 2,000 gallons, the first 2,000 gallons hasn’t changed, it’s still $25. But for the next 1,000 gallons, it changes from $4 to $5 … per 1,000 gallons,” Hatcher explained.

He said a large part of the estimated $420,000 deficit the sewer and water fund is running was going to be alleviated by “by some very large increases to the school board and county government and Bear Creek Lake (State Park).”

“That’s the intention … with these increases, it will close the deficit,” Hatcher said. “What that does is it’s kind of fair, then again it’s not fair. It’s no good way out of it. The users of the system are going to be (faced with) like an 8-percent increase. That’s a pretty stiff increase. So, the rest of the increase is going to have to be shared by the taxpayers and the users.”

He said he expected a “big increase” in sewer fees.

“The businesses are still paying on a gallon rate. (They) pay on a square-footage rate … We’ve got to go back and look and see. We still don’t know exactly how much that’s going to be yet. We do know that the increase on the residential users is only going to take care of a small portion of the debt, maybe 40 percent, something like that. I don’t know the exact number right now.”

The debt on the fund runs about $9,000 per month, he said. The debt includes overdue bills, penalties and interest.

Before resigning, Hatcher had served on the committee since 2005 and was chairman for about eight of those years.

“The utilities fund, it’s not in the black. It’s not self sustaining at the moment,” Giles said during a previous interview. “It needs to generate additional revenue for just normal operations and repairs.”