The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission is planning to begin taking donations to help low-income and struggling customers pay their bills.
When the utility’s enacting legislation was amended in 2016, the state legislature gave the JWSC the authority to collect donations.
“In the 2016 legislation, there was a provision that gave the JWSC the power to solicit and accept donations to assist in bill-paying for low-income residential customers and to give bill-paying assistance to residents in financial hardship,” JWSC legal counsel Charles Dorminy said at the utility commission’s Thursday meeting.
It was originally called a roundup program because one of the primary means of funding would have been allowing customers to round up their bills to the nearest dollar, Executive Director Jimmy Junkin said Thursday. The excess would go into a donation pool.
Donations could also be used to repair low-income customers’ water or sewer infrastructure.
“Using 50 cents as the median thing that rounds up every month from every customer and if we have 30,000 customers, we don’t have quite that many customers, that would be about $180,000 that we could have to help people who are less advantaged than you or I to pay their bills,” utility commission Chairman Donald Elliot said on Thursday.
Any interest can be used to benefit the JWSC, according to the legislation.
The utility can’t handle the money itself, however. It must be distributed through a third party or state-sponsored agency selected via the standard bidding process.
Dorminy said Friday that he is working on an agreement between the utility and the Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority for the collection and use of donations.
“There would be a separate account it would go into. The JWSC gives them criteria as to who should get it,” Dorminy said. “... The community action authority will determine which low-income customers they go to.”
The finer details are hashed out in the contract, Dorminy said.
A draft of the agreement would have the community action authority take applications from customers and select one or more to assist within 30 days. Not all of the details were worked out as of Friday, however.
Other stipulations in the contract included the requirement that an applicant’s income is at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, a U.S. citizen or legal alien and a JWSC customer.
In addition, the action authority would have to submit a monthly report on how the donations were used to the utility.
Dorminy said he expects to bring a final draft of the contract to the utility commission at its Dec. 6 meeting.
Plans are in motion to remove Atlantic cobia from management at the federal level, and turn over management of the fish in federal waters, from Georgia to New York, to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a cooperative effort of East Coast states.
The ASMFC generally helps regulate the first three miles from shore — that which is under state control — and provides a framework so that recreational and commercial fishermen deal with relatively consistent state regulations along the East Coast, rather than a hodgepodge.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced the opening of a public comment period Nov. 9, that’s slated to run through Dec. 10. Presently, Atlantic cobia in the federal waters off Georgia are managed through the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which also deals with other fisheries in federal waters in this region.
A period of public hearings nearly a year ago led to the conclusion, according to the SAFMC’s summary, that removing “Atlantic cobia from federal management as soon as possible” would be best for the fishery.
At the SAFMC meeting on Jekyll Island in March, the topic received a fair bit of discussion, with the plan to move management from the SAFMC to the ASMFC winning approval in committee by a vote of 6-5-1. The council ended up delaying a decision until its June meeting, in which it was approved for formal review.
According to the NMFS bulletin announcing the public comment period, “most existing management measures in federal waters for commercial and recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia from Georgia through New York would not change through this amendment.”
Most Atlantic cobia are harvested in state waters already. Going forward, if this change is approved, in federal waters, for commercial harvesting the minimum size limit would be 33 inches fork length and the trip limit would be whatever is most restrictive between two fish per person per day or six fish per vessel per day.
For recreational anglers, the minimum size would be 36 inches fork length and the bag and vessel limits would be the most restrictive between one fish per person per day or six fish per vessel per day.
To comment, people can go to regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0114 and follow the instructions, or send written comments to Karla Gore, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Fla., 33701.