162A-9. Rates and charges; notice; contracts for water or services; deposits; delinquent charges.

(a) An authority may establish and revise a schedule of rates, fees, and other charges for the use of and for the services furnished or to be furnished by any water system or sewer system or parts thereof owned or operated by the authority. The rates, fees, and charges established under this subsection are not subject to supervision or regulation by any bureau, board, commission, or other agency of the State or of any political subdivision.

Before an authority sets or revises rates, fees, or other charges for stormwater management programs and structural or natural stormwater and drainage system service, the authority shall hold a public hearing on the matter. At least seven days before the hearing, the authority shall publish notice of the public hearing in a newspaper having general circulation in the area. An authority may impose rates, fees, or other charges for stormwater management programs and stormwater and drainage system service on a person even though the person has not entered into a contract to receive the service.

Rates, fees, and charges shall be fixed and revised so that the revenues of the authority, together with any other available funds, will be sufficient at all times:

(1) To pay the cost of maintaining, repairing, and operating the systems or parts thereof owned or operated by the authority, including reserves for such purposes, and including provision for the payment of principal of and interest on indebtedness of a political subdivision or of political subdivisions which payment shall have been assumed by the authority, and

(2) To pay the principal of and the interest on all bonds issued by the authority under the provisions of this Article as the same shall become due and payable and to provide reserves therefor.

The fees established under this subsection must be made applicable throughout the service area. Schedules of rates, fees, charges, and penalties for providing stormwater management programs and structural and natural stormwater and drainage system service may vary according to whether the property served is residential, commercial, or industrial property, the property's use, the size of the property, the area of impervious surfaces on the property, the quantity and quality of the runoff from the property, the characteristics of the watershed into which stormwater from the property drains, and other factors that affect the stormwater drainage system. Rates, fees, and charges imposed under this subsection for stormwater management programs and stormwater and drainage system service may not exceed the authority's cost of providing a stormwater management program and a structural and natural stormwater and drainage system. The authority's cost of providing a stormwater management program and a structural and natural stormwater and drainage system includes any costs necessary to assure that all aspects of stormwater quality and quantity are managed in accordance with federal and State laws, regulations, and rules.

No stormwater utility fee may be levied under this subsection whenever two or more units of local government operate separate stormwater management programs or separate structural and natural stormwater and drainage system services in the same area within a county. However, two or more units of local government may allocate among themselves the functions, duties, powers, and responsibilities for jointly operating a stormwater management program and structural and natural stormwater and drainage system service in the same area within a county, provided that only one unit may levy a fee for the service within the joint service area. For purposes of this subsection, a unit of local government shall include a regional authority providing stormwater management programs and structural and natural stormwater and drainage system services.

(a1) An authority shall provide notice to interested parties of the imposition of or increase in rates, fees, and charges under subsection (a) of this section applicable solely to the construction of development subject to Part 2 of Article 19 of Chapter 160A or Part 2 of Article 18 of Chapter 153A of the General Statutes at least seven days prior to the first meeting where the imposition of or increase in the rates, fees, and charges is on the agenda for consideration. The authority shall employ at least two of the following means of communication in order to provide the notice required by this subsection:

(1) Notice of the meeting in a prominent location on a Web site managed or maintained by the authority.

(2) Notice of the meeting in a prominent physical location, including, but not limited to, the authority's headquarters or any government building, library, or courthouse located within the authority's service area.

(3) Notice of the meeting by electronic mail to a list of interested parties that is created by the authority for the purpose of notification as required by this section.

(4) Notice of the meeting by facsimile to a list of interested parties that is created by the authority for the purpose of notification as required by this section.

(a2) If an authority does not maintain its own Web site, it may employ the notice option provided by subdivision (1) of subsection (a1) of this section by submitting a request to a county or counties in which the authority is located to post such notice in a prominent location on a Web site that is maintained by the county or counties. Any authority that elects to provide such notice shall make its request to the county or counties at least 15 days prior to the date of the first meeting where the imposition of or increase in the fees or charges is on the agenda for consideration.

(a3) During the consideration of the imposition of or increase in rates, fees, or charges under this subsection, the authority shall permit a period of public comment.

(a4) The notice requirements in subsection (a1) of this section shall not apply if the imposition of or increase in rates, fees, and charges is contained in a budget filed in accordance with the requirements of G.S. 159-12.

(a5) An authority may require system development fees only in accordance with Article 8 of this Chapter.

(b) Notwithstanding any of the foregoing provisions of this section, the authority may enter into contracts relating to the collection, treatment or disposal of sewage or the purchase or sale of water which shall not be subject to revision except in accordance with their terms.

(c) In order to insure the payment of such rates, fees and charges as the same shall become due and payable, the authority may do the following in addition to exercising any other remedies which it may have:

(1) Require reasonable advance deposits to be made with it to be subject to application to the payment of delinquent rates, fees and charges.

(2) At the expiration of 30 days after any rates, fees and charges become delinquent, discontinue supplying water or the services and facilities of any water system or sewer system of the authority.

(3) Specify the order in which partial payments are to be applied when a bill covers more than one service. (1955, c. 1195, s. 8; 1971, c. 892, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1004, s. 45; 1991, c. 591, s. 4; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 1007, s. 47; 2000-70, s. 7; 2009-436, s. 4; 2010-180, s. 11(d); 2017-138, s. 5(b).)