by: Dave Faherty Updated:
RHODHISS, N.C. - A town that straddles the Catawba River could go bankrupt if it doesn't get more funding for its water and sewer problems.
Already residents of Rhodhiss face a 30 percent increase in their bills starting July 1.
At the town hall in Rhodhiss on Tuesday, Michelle Giles said she isn't happy about what's about to happen to her water and sewer bill over the next few months.
"I think we pay enough already. It's hard times around here. It is real hard times. There are so many people unemployed looking for jobs but there is nothing out there,” said Giles.
Mayor Rick Justice and the town clerk showed pictures of the problem. More than half of the 40,000 feet of sewer lines need to be replaced; some of the lines are nearly 70 years old and have tree roots growing through them.
This year, even with the rate hike, town leaders had to pull $120,000 out of Rhodhiss's capital reserve fund to balance the budget.
"Some day it will take everything we have. It would deplete us a couple of years down the road if we are not aggressive,” Justice said.
Even before the economic slowdown in 2008, Rhodhiss, which sits along the Catawba River, was in trouble. The city's biggest employer, the textile mill, closed years ago, and with it many of the jobs left and nothing replaced them.
That mill produced the material for the flag that sits on the moon. A photo still hangs on a wall in town hall and is a source of pride. With less taxes coming in and fewer jobs, the hike couldn't come at a worst time with many on a tight budget.
"I live with my sister and I work part time at Wendy's, and she's disabled and it is hard enough right now to afford all the bills,” said resident Robin Rogers.
Town leaders hope to get help from a state grant and will discuss the rate increase at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.