LAKE WYLIE — The group that will decide whether to approve a requested water rate increase will stop and listen to customers first.
Carolina Water Service, the company providing water in the Lake Wylie area, applied for a rate increase in September with the South Carolina Public Service Commission. The utility company requested a base charge increase of 24 percent, and 25 percent more per 1,000 gallons used. A 26 percent increase for sewer is included. The company lists 36 systems statewide that would be impacted, including the Lake Wylie area in York County.
The commission will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at River Hills Community Church. Another is scheduled Jan. 14 in Columbia. Anyone wanting to give testimony in the case will have three minutes to do so and can sign in at the meeting.
According to the application, the new rates are needed to comply with state utility standards, earn a “reasonable return” on the company’s investment, provide capital for future improvements and maintain facilities “to continue providing reliable and high quality water and sewer services.”
The commission is expected to make a final decision in March.
River Hills Community Association board member Don Long is heading an effort looking into the increase. Long has petitioned the commission to hold the public meeting in the spring, past the holidays and after the Clover School District bond campaign. He also asked for specific and audited information on what the company is doing with its money and what changes are proposed.
Residents won’t be the only ones impacted. Charles Wood, Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce board president, said his group hasn’t formally met on the issue, but they’re concerned how businesses could be affected. Wood plans to address the commission at the Dec. 12 meeting.
“I am going to express the (chamber’s) concern that this would retard new business development, retard apartment and new home construction, and dampen new home sales,” he said.
Tom Oakley, with Carolina Water Service parent company Utilities Inc., said the rate increase is a result of work from the fall 2010.
“Between September 2010 and the end of 2013, Carolina Water Service has actual and planned investments to utility plant in service in excess of $4.8 million,” he said.
Improvements, according to the company, include wastewater treatment plant upgrades and painting, replacement of a lift station and hydrotank, two interconnections, collection system improvements and dredging a pond.
Bruce Henderson, who represents the Lake Wylie area on York County Council, said a modest increase would be understandable, but he’s hoping the current figure will be “drastically lessened before it’s over.”
“If it were more in reason, I could see it,” Henderson said.
Recent rate increase proposals have been up to 80 percent at one time. Henderson said residents shouldn’t have to face such high increases at a time.
“It’s just like always,” he said of the latest proposal. “It’s always a bad situation.”
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