SANFORD, N.C. — A war over water is making Lee County residents feel washed out.
Residents are watching their water bills go up. Some of the bills are even doubling.
Beauty shop owner Linda Cox, like many other people in the county, said she has watched her water bills rise.
"Everyone's bill has gone up, and they don't understand why, and they ask me," Cox said. "Mine's gone up, too. But I don't know why."
The reason is simple: Lee County buys its water from the city of Sanford. Sanford officials raised their prices because of maintenance costs, like flushing the pipes.
That is not new. But the tab is.
This year, county officials planned on spending less than $700,000 for water. Now, it looks like they will spend more than $1 million.
Of course, residents will foot the bill.
County residents keep calling their public works department to complain. Director Kenneth Cole knows where they are coming from because he is in the same boat as the callers.
"If you get a 6 percent or 7 percent increase, that's expected," Cole said. "But, when you take in 15 to 20 million gallons of water a month, that's what takes the budget and throws it out.
"All of a sudden, you're tied with a cost you can't . .. you can't recover."
For people like Cox, even good reasons do not cut it when they have to pay the bills.
"If the bills keep going up, I'll have to go up, too," she said.
That is another increase Cox and her customers do not want to see.
The county has hired an engineering firm to look for ways the city can cut costs. If that does not work, the county may cut ties with Sanford's water system and find a less expensive supplier.