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Friday, May 24, 2024

Who should H2GO ratepayers in Brunswick County send their checks to?

H2GO staff meet for a special meeting in the middle of an ongoing legal battle between the town of Belville and previous board members. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)
H2GO staff meet for a special meeting in the middle of an ongoing legal battle between the town of Belville and previous board members. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY —The ongoing saga of Brunswick County Water and Sewer H2GO has left ratepayers uncertain of who or what is in charge of their water. Or, to put it another way, it might not clear who they should making their checks out to.

Earlier this week, Brunswick County Superior Court heard the temporary restraining order filed by Leland. The restraining order was filed to stop H2GO’s attempt to transfer all of its assets — and customers — to the town of Belville. That attempt was made by outgoing members of H2GO, in an attempt to save their long-planned, $35 million reverse osmosis plant.

The court hearing was also intended to answer the town of Belville’s legal response to Leland. Belville’s motion came after H2GO’s board, now acting with new member Bill Beer, attempted to reverse course. With the vote of Beer, who campaigned against the RO plant, H2GO attempted to reverse to sale to Belville, a move that would take assets back from Belville and, essentially, doom the RO plant. Belville’s motion demanded that the town, not H2GO, retain these assets and be allowed to move forward on the plant.

Superior Court Thomas Lock was charged with deciding: who’s in charge here?

(To catch up with a bare-bones breakdown of the happenings which ultimately lead multiple governing bodies to enter into a legal battle over water and sewer utility assets, read our timeline.)

Who’s in charge here?

So, if you’re a ratepayer in Brunswick County, who should you send your checks to?

“To whomever sends the bill to them, that’s who they should send their checks to I guess,” H2GO Commissioner Jeff Gerken said. “It’s up in the air right now … I certainly don’t know the answer to that question.

“We aren’t sure who owns H2Go, or who owns the assets of H2Go,” Gerken said.

H2GO Commissioner Judy Trombley said she personally continued to have her bill drafted from her checking account.

“I would assume there is an address on the bill showing the address. Barring that the address of H2GO on Village Road would be the place to send it,” Trombley said.

Staff representing Belville, the government entity with a possibility of maintaining ownership of the assets, were more certain.

Mike McGill, president of the WaterPIO public relations firm initially hired by H2GO and now representing the town of Belville, said that – regardless of who owns H2GO – customers should continue to send their payments to the same H2GO address that they have previously used.

“It is not up in the air,” McGill said. “Nothing is changing with how the customer is handling their payments, how their services are being handled and we’ve been clear on that from the start.”

At the conclusion of this week’s trial, Judge Lock froze all actions by H2GO. As part of his finding, H2GO remains the legal property of the town of Belville. However, H2GO – in its present form and with its present staff – will continue to operate the utility.

Judge Lock has not yet answered questions about where ratepayer money should go.

That appears to mean that, for now, ratepayers should continue to send their checks to H2GO, even as the fate of the utility and its finances remains in question.


Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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