The Bryan County Water and Sewer Authority Act, which went before legislators as House Bill 1329, was recently approved.
The act calls for a newly created authority that will eventually be in charge of a countywide water and sewer system.
"I think this is a great piece of legislation for Bryan County’s future," County Administrator Phil Jones said. "It is appropriate environmentally, as it will curtail the proliferation of septic tanks in Bryan County, and it will take politics out of the sewer and water business."
So what does the new act mean for Bryan County?
"Bryan County is trying to map out a sound environmental strategy by providing the appropriate methodology for future development," Jones explained. "The county previously approved a sewer and water master plan…and the Authority will be the mechanism to implement the strategy."
The process has already started, Jones said.
The county has water and sewer systems at Hwy. 280, near the Industrial Centre, and at Genesis Point, which is currently being built near the Waterways Township development in South Bryan. To help fund implementation, the Genesis Point system is guaranteed through letters of credit by the developer.
"The system at Genesis Point can be expanded to cover a large portion of the unincorporated areas of South Bryan," Jones said, noting it’s a long-range plan that won’t happen overnight.
Residents’ rates will be comparable to less than those currently paid, with rate structure based on construction, delivery, operations and maintenance costs and the number of customers served, Jones said. The most immediate customers will be those in and around the two systems, which will "proliferate out over time to encompass other users," Jones explained.
County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said the commission felt it was important to create the authority so that it would be run outside the boundaries of county government.
"The commission decided it would be good to set up this authority through the county, but have it run by a separate board," Burnsed said. "Our hope is that it will provide the opportunity to manage it outside county government, similar to how the Development Authority is run."
Jones said that while the Water and Sewer Authority will have the power to enter into agreements with cities and buy out private systems, it isn’t mandatory.
"Cities and private operators can chose to be part of the authority or not," he said. "Over time it is expected this will eliminate private systems, which are virtually unregulated in terms of fee structures."
Burnsed said the county has had preliminary discussions with the cities, but the plan is still very much in the beginning stages.
"The cities currently have their own water and sewer arrangements that we don’t have any control of," Burnsed pointed out. "In the future, I think it will be important to involve other people in this process."
According to the bill, the authority will be made up of six members, including two incumbent commissioners, who have not yet been decided.