The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission held their annual town hall meeting on St. Simon’s Island on Tuesday evening, one of two meetings scheduled for this week.
During the meeting, Interim Executive Director Andrew Burroughs went over the commission’s budget, water and sewage rates, SPLOST projects and projects both completed and ongoing on the island and the mainland.
With a FY2019 budget of $33.2 million, water and sewage rates will not increase for the next year. On top of that, the commission managed to substantially increase its capital budget, which is used to fund new projects in the county.
Burroughs lauded the capital budget increase without a rate increase as a sign of efficiency.
Three projects that have been completed on the island in the past year were the St. Simons Island smoke testing, the Pier Village area water improvements and the Frederica and Colonial water main installation.
The smoke testing, which doesn’t use actual smoke, is a way to visually identify potential leakage points in existing water infrastructure. The Village Area project replaced and relocated old lines to make way for storm drains. The Federica and Colonial water main installation aimed to increase pressure to the Sea Palms resort area by attaching the smaller pipe in front of the Thrive senior living facility to the larger one across the street. Both projects were done at night to minimize invasiveness.
Burroughs also addressed several new business practices for the commission which are meant to ease the county residents’ financial burdens.
After July 1, customers on active payment plans will no longer be charged late fees. Accrued late fees will also be removed for customers who begin consistently paying their bills.
A new Customer Assistance Program will allow eligible customers to receive money to help pay their bills if they’re tight on money. Willing customers can elect to have their bills rounded up to the next dollar, and the difference will be used for the collective fund.
During the question and answer portion of the meeting, St. Simon Island residents DeFord Smith and Gary Baldwin criticized the commission for having what they described as a convoluted online payment system. They specifically lamented not being able to have their bill payments drafted directly from their checking accounts.
While Burroughs and other members of the commission assured them that this was an issue they had been working on, the two didn’t seem satisfied. “You’ve got a college over there, that has a computer science department,” Baldwin said. “You could have a graduate student come over and write the software for free in 30 minutes.”
Burroughs assured them that the commission would continue to work on this problem and hopefully have it resolved by the next year.
Footage of Tuesday’s meeting in its entirety can be found on the JWSC’s Facebook page.
Their next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Howard Coffin Park in Brunswick.