Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Steve Hosmer runs for reelection to Brunswick H2GO board

Current member of H2GO’s board of commissioners Steve Hosmer is running for reelection. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Current member of H2GO’s board of commissioners Steve Hosmer is running for reelection.

Hosmer is running against two other candidates — incumbent Barry Laub and Joann Levitan — for two open positions. H2GO, a sanitary district created by the North Carolina Public Health Commission, serves 16,500 water customers and 18,000 sewer customers in Belville, Leland, Navassa, and unincorporated areas of northeastern Brunswick County.

Former engineer Hosmer became a local activist before running for his position in 2019. In 2017, Hosmer set up grassroots organization Clean Water Team to hold the then-H2GO board accountable. Over 18 months, he submitted 140 public comments challenging the board and gathered a team to speak at meetings.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their districts, in this case, PFAS, customer growth and keeping rates from rising. Hosmer’s answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity. 

The paywall has been dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 31 and must be returned Nov. 7 (or post-marked as such).
  • Registration to vote will be open until Oct. 13; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration will be available only during one-stop early voting.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 19 and remains open through Nov. 4 (3 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

In Brunswick County, voters can cast ballots early at the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension (in lieu of the Board of Elections) at 25 Referendum Drive, Building N, in Bolivia.

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their registration cards, verified here.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

A photo ID is required to cast a ballot in 2023; more information can be found on the state board of elections website.

The candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. 

Port City Daily (PCD): Why re-run for the board now?

Steve Hosmer (SH): H2GO’s biggest challenge today is correctly planning for growth and cost containment over the next 10 years. My in-depth, experience-based knowledge of H2GO’s current status and growth options already in play, along with my previous engineering and business background, can, I believe, quickly bring the greatest value to H2GO and H2GO’s customers.

During my past four years of service as a board member at H2GO:

  • I developed the strategy that broke the legal log-jam preventing H2GO from restarting construction on the Aquifer-Sourced Reverse-Osmosis System. Then, together with other Board members, and without raising water rates,
  • We guided H2GO through the process of financing and completing the Aquifer-Sourced Reverse-Osmosis System,
  • We managed the acquisition of another, competing water utility. 
  • We grew H2GO’s customer base from 28,000 people to 40,000 people.
  • We expanded staff to meet these new challenges
  • We began the process of moving H2GO to district voting to provide more broad based representation
  • We kept water prices the same through all of this. 
  • We proudly maintain the lowest water rates in the region.

Together with my engineering background, my broad business based experience, and my six years of successful local involvement with H2GO, I bring a wealth of relevant experience to my candidacy.

PCD: Name three issues you think are most affecting H2GO currently and describe how you would work toward tackling them.

SH: Number one challenge is capacity growth. Water needs at H2GO are expected to double over the next 10 years. H2GO is already well into planning for that growth. Growth components include:

  • more wells,
  • an additional Reverse Osmosis skid in our current plant
  • plant expansion,
  • underground storage of finished water,
  • the use of treated wastewater for irrigation in new developments
  • other infrastructure to support all of that.

Number two challenge is facilities and staffing growth.

  • Planning for expanded facilities is already underway. H2GO has begun an architectural survey process which will result in suggested plans for facility expansion. These plans will include staged expansion. Once a plan is finalized, H2GO will then begin managing the expansion process.
  • Staff expansion has already begun with the hiring of a new HR manager and needs analysis studies by staff.

Number three challenge is cost control during high growth periods.

  • H2GO already has an excellent financial team that has brought new and more cost effective systems into the organization. They have insured that we remain financially strong while complying with sometimes complex state regulations regarding financing of a sanitary district.
  • This team, along with the board, will be addressing significant financial needs during the next 4 years and making the best choices will be critical to keeping costs low in a period of extreme growth.

PCD: The board has said it would not increase its rates following the construction of its $42-million reverse osmosis plant. Do you agree with this approach and how do you plan to sustain that?

SH: H2GO already has lower water rates than the two adjacent water utilities in our area. While H2GO had several possible reasons for justifying a rate increase during the construction of the current Aquifer-Sourced Reverse-Osmosis system, the board chose not to do that.

We do not yet know the costs required to meet projected growth needs over the next 10 years. I will continue to support the idea of rate stabilization for as long as possible. Any possible future rate change would be based on future needs, not the past cost of building the reverse osmosis plant.

PCD: Do you support legislation that would divide the board into electoral districts for better representation? Why or why not?

SH: Yes, I support and have encouraged this legislation. As H2GO has grown its customer base both in numbers and in geographical area, I believe it to be important for each customer to feel that they have direct representation and a single point of contact for their community.

PCD: How do you plan to expand your customer base with a growing population and still retain capacity to support everyone?

SH: Please see the part of my answer to question 3 above titled: “Number 1 challenge is capacity growth.”

PCD: What can the board do to continue advocacy for clean water protection from PFAS and holding polluters accountable? What more, if anything, can H2GO do to support these efforts on a local level?

SH: Locally, 40,000 H2GO customers already have “clean water protection” from all industrial contaminants. This year, H2GO completed a huge win for its customers by discontinuing its use of river water as a water source. H2GO customers no longer have to worry about PFAS or any other industrial pollutant in their water.

H2GO has also filed a claim under a lawsuit successfully settled with Chemours which penalizes the polluter. This may result in H2GO receiving funds to offset some of the costs of building the current Aquifer-Sourced Reverse-Osmosis system. 

I personally support the efforts of Clean Cape Fear, a local non-profit environmental organization and recommend that organization to all residents of the Lower Cape Fear region. See https://www.cleancapefear.org/ for more details.

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