Tega Cay to buy troubled private water company

04/08/2014 10:27 PM

04/09/2014 7:42 AM

The Tega Cay City Council voted Tuesday night to buy the troubled, privately owned Tega Cay Water Service for $5.85 million – a move that would more than double the number of water and sewer customers the city serves.

The roughly 20 residents who waited through almost two hours of closed-door negotiations erupted into applause following the decision. Now the city has to put together a formal purchase agreement, and the City Council will need to approve a plan to finance the deal – but the process could be complete in the next 15 days, officials said.

“It’s going to be fairly accelerated, to the extent that it can be,” City Manager Charlie Funderburk said.

The city and the utility have an agreed on a price, but the exact amount the city will pay could change as the details of the contract are nailed down.

“It’s a definite step,” Councilwoman Dottie Hersey said. “It’s a next step. It’s a big step.”

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the state Public Service Commission also must approve the sale of the system, which serves about 1,700 Tega Cay homeowners. The city already provides water and sewer services to about 1,500 Tega Cay property owners.

Tega Cay Water Service is under a DHEC consent order for environmental infractions following multiple sewage spills into Lake Wylie. The city would assume responsibility for sewer system upgrades state regulators have ordered the company to perform if the sale is completed before improvements are made.

City officials will present the agreement to the public and answer questions about it 7 p.m. Monday in the Glennon Center.

With financing and other issues still to be worked out, Hersey said the city has a “solid plan” in place.

“An asset purchase agreement will have to be drafted and approved by the council,” Funderburk said. “There are many more big steps ahead of us, and much more work to be done.”

The City Council met in executive session for 117 minutes. Residents – many of whom have been aggressively pushing state regulators to take action against Tega Cay Water Service – didn’t sit idly by in the meantime.

Dozens came and went during an impromptu town hall discussion led by members of the Tega Cay Water Citizen Advisory Council. Leader Linda Stevenson wasn’t optimistic the City Council would announce any decision Tuesday.

While there is “no way in the world” Stevenson said the city should have paid the utility’s initial asking price of $7.86 million, Stevenson believed something had to be done.

“We want this company out of our lives forever,” she said.

The Citizen Advisory Council surveyed homeowners served by Tega Cay Water Service and received 534 replies. About 60 percent, Stevenson said, wanted the city to buy the system. Legal action against the utility was another option.

Stevenson said the group was “ready to take this company to court.”

State Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told residents during the wait that any decision should come with full knowledge of what the system is worth, what it will take to make needed upgrades, and what residents will have to pay.

“It’s a dilapidated system,” said Norman, who has put pressure on state officials to take action against Tega Cay Water Service. “We all know what it is. We’ve all been to the hearings. I’d want to know those things before anything gets done.”

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