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Talks on sewage deepen
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Forsyth County News
An ongoing effort to resolve sewer capacity issues has the Forsyth County commission seeking direction from another panel.

During a work session Tuesday, commissioners agreed to ask advice from the county’s water and sewer committee on how to handle collections and reimbursement.

Commissioner Patrick Bell took issue with the fact that information showing customers that are using less capacity than they paid for was not available, though the county has identified those who are using more.

He asked that the county hold off on collecting money from those who owe for 30 to 45 days until the situation can be resolved.

“In my mind, an audit goes both ways,” Bell said. “My concern is ... we didn’t record the under usage. I don’t know if that’s an audit. I don’t know if that’s going looking for money or if that’s an audit, but that concerns me.”   

Bell suggested finding out who is using less sewer capacity than paid for and sending them reimbursement.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse, who is on the water and sewer committee, pointed out that those who are using less than they reserved may apply for a refund through the commission.

Bell reiterated Wednesday he thinks the county needs to stop collecting until there’s a policy that deals with both overages and underages.

“When you audit, you request payment for those that are over and you refund money for those that are under,” Bell said. “It just seems like I couldn’t get that message across.”

The water and sewer department began sending letters in 2008 to businesses that were using more capacity than they reserved and asked them to pay up.

Forsyth County Water and Sewer Director Tim Perkins said the department has not been aggressively collecting what’s due, about $1.2 million, and has been working with businesses to get the situation under control.

The county has, however, collected $725,000.

Perkins was asked to address the commission Tuesday after concerns raised by recent articles in the Forsyth County News.

The articles, published Oct. 25, detailed the department’s efforts to resolve the matter over the last two years.

The situation, which went unchecked prior to 2007, has stirred confusion and frustration among the local business community, some members of which are being asked to pay thousands of dollars for exceeding their alloted capacity.

Though he was able to show what was owed the county, Perkins did not have information Tuesday on how much the county owes to customers who are using less sewer capacity than reserved.

Perkins said the county’s information technology department is working to merge two databases, which would result in showing both categories.

There is a policy in the works that he said will address how and when to give refunds.