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What is the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority?

Chris Mazzolini
StarNews

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is the legal love child of New Hanover County and Wilmington, formally conceived by elected leaders in 2007 with the sole purpose of running the area’s water and sewer pipes and plants.

The authority is located at 235 Government Center Drive, Wilmington [Map this]. Find out more about CFPUA at www.cfpua.org

The authority is a governmental body – its revenue source is the bills that we pay – run by an appointed board of directors with 11 members. Four of those members are from the city council and county commissioners, and the others are appointed by those elected bodies.

It’s sole purpose: To operate and maintain the water and sewer system for Wilmington and the unincorporated New Hanover County on behalf of about 60,000 customers.

Here’s a bit of history on the whole thing:

Wilmington and New Hanover County have flirted with consolidating departments for decades, but efforts were regularly dashed by political disagreements and mistrust between elected leaders. The idea’s supporters argued that the city and county basically shared overlapping systems, so it made sense to consolidate in this small geographic area for the sake of efficiency. But status quo regularly won the day.

Then sewer pipes started breaking, spilling millions of gallons of yuck into nearby creeks. Faced with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects to improve the outdated water/sewer infrastructure, the county commissioners and city council began singing the same tune. A common argument was that water and sewer services needed to be run “more like a business.”

So they researched consolidation efforts elsewhere and formed an advisory panel to think it through. They consulted employee groups and hired consultants and held long meetings to discuss the issue in depth.

The end result (after some political wrangling over representation issues) was the creation of CPFUA, an independent agency that inherited control of the utilities system and had all of the city and county’s obligations dumped in its lap.

The authority took over all that responsibility on July 1, 2008. Things have not started smoothly.

For one thing, computer glitches caused huge problems with the bills. Some customers didn’t get bills intended for July or August until December or even later. Other customers received erroneous bills for thousands of dollars.

The billing problems are all straightened out now, but the authority is still playing catch up.

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One Response to “ What is the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority?”

  1. On June 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm Frances Dominguez wrote:

    I want to know why my neighbors and I are still paying flat rate for our sewer. Our water is metered on 1 master meter and paid by our Home Owners Mfg Co. They then apportion the amount and each home owner pays their share. Sewer bills are based on water usage. Now that our water usage is metered why isn’t doesn’t our sewer usage based on water usage? Everybody that has metered water also has metered sewer. I just received my outrageous bill. That’s almost $1200.00 a year for sewer on homes that are no more than 1200 sq.ft. and no land to speak of. We are a small town house community inhabited by singles and couples.



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