By Kayla Carter
A Watauga River Regional Water Authority board member stipend increase request opened up the Friday Carter County Utility Committee meeting for discussion about North Elizabethton Water Division rates, which are higher than any other utility in the county, officials said.
The monthly stipend increase request, which was made by Bryon Trantham for an additional $200 to be paid toward each board members’ meeting attendance, is subject to Carter County Commission approval because the 2001 WRRWA charter was structured that way.
Four WRRWA board members are currently paid $100 per meeting and by state law are allowed up to $300 in monthly compensation for up to 12 meetings, Trantham said. Through his research, Trantham also noted that he discovered that roughly 90 percent of water utility boards in the state are alotted the full $300 stipend.
“The dollar is not as strong today as it was 13 years ago,” he said.
“If it is passed, it will not create a rate increase or reflect upon water bills. The current rate structure supports this additional $9,600.”
Commissioner John Lewis asked Trantham to give the board more information that would justify the stipend increase.
“The regional water authority was brought to fruition due to the fact that a lot of the wells were failing in Carter County,” Trantham said. “I think the surface water plant up there will be a great benefit to this entire county. It’s the only surface water source in the entire county.”
Trantham cited the WRRWA’s involvement in improving multiple Carter County utility operations as grounds for a stipend increase.
“The board of directors for the Watauga River Regional Water Authority gave great leadership to getting water to the Fish Springs and Little Milligan area,” Trantham said. “North Elizabethton was a co-op at one point in time and was deteriorating greatly. They gave leadership to that utility. We just finished securing a $500,000 CDB (Community Development Block) grant to probably replace 11 miles of water line over there.”
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