The city of Cumberland has pulled out of a proposed sewer interconnect project which would merge the sewer service for Cumberland, Benham and Lynch. The council came to the decision during a meeting on Tuesday.
The proposed sewer interconnect is a joint project between the state, county, Benham, Lynch and Cumberland.
Mayor Charles Raleigh asked the council for their thoughts on the project during his report to council.
“I had a couple fellows come and visit me inquiring about it, as they had heard we were pulling out of the interconnect,” Raleigh told the panel. “I explained to them we hadn’t done so, but there are some concerns with the billing.”
Raleigh said some of his questions included what percentage of income from other city services, such as water and garbage collection, would go to the entity controlling the interconnect.
“We thought it was just sewer, but it’s actually collecting water and garbage taxes, and if I’m not wrong somewhere in there it specifies about city equipment, any vehicles we own, that would all go to them.”
Raleigh suggested to the council the matter required in depth research.
“Once they take out loans, this is permanent,” Raleigh said. “You can’t pull out of it.”
Council member Yvonne Gilliam stated nothing had been said concerning other utilities.
“They said they were not wanting the water,” Gilliam said. “They said they just wanted the sewer. They didn’t say anything about garbage…we asked them specifically if they wanted the water, they said ‘no we don’t.’ We’ve been misled.”
Raleigh said there has been a lapse in communication.
“There’s definitely some concerns there,” Raleigh said. “Once they take out loans, set up an office…you’re bound to that.”
Council member David Dixon said he did have a concern should Cumberland pull out of the deal.
“My only concern is — if we vote to pull out of this — is then we’re going to lose any support we’re currently getting from the state or county level,” Dixon said.
According to Dixon, he feels like the council was not informed of what happened at a meeting in Benham.
“I feel like we’ve never been informed of what went on in those meetings between the mayors,” Dixon said.
After some further discussion, the council voted unanimously to pull out of the proposed sewer interconnect.
After the meeting, Charles Raleigh pointed out should Cumberland’s concerns be addressed, the city is still open to the interconnect.
“I think the door is wide open to it,” Raleigh said. “I think some of it is just some miscommunication somewhere. I don’t think the door is completely closed…it’s closed until we can resolve these issues.”
According to Raleigh, it boils down to what’s in the best interest of the citizens of Cumberland.
“I think the council did what they thought was best in the situation they’re in with the information they have,” Raleigh said. “I don’t think there’s any one person that misled us, or any entity that misled us. Somewhere along the line, something was missed.”
Raleigh said he believes there are several issues that need to be addressed before reconsidering the interconnect, including the collecting of the finances, the giving away of city equipment and the requirement to maintain the system.
“That sort of defeats the purpose of them taking it over if we’re still going to be responsible for maintaining it,” Raleigh said. “The finances, the manpower, the equipment, I think if we can conquer those few issues (the door) is still wide open.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde