York County Council won’t file to intervene in the Carolina Water Service rate increase case, but the county will continue negotiating with the utility on local service options.
Carolina Water is proposing water and sewer increases from 15 to 30 percent for about 28,000 customers statewide. The company has more than 9,700 customers in York County, with the majority in the Lake Wylie area.
The last day for individuals or groups to file as intervenors in the case is Jan. 9.
“The county has elected not to petition to intervene,” said Councilwoman Allison Love, who represents Lake Wylie. “I agree this is in the best interest of their customers and the contract that is being finalized between York County and Carolina Water Service.”
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Council had called a special meeting Jan. 9, then canceled. The only agenda item was a closed door session to hear legal advice on whether to intervene in the Carolina Water rate case. The county could have returned to open session afterward to authorize the petition to intervene.
The notice canceling the meeting doesn’t state why the meeting was canceled.
Love said deciding not to intervene isn’t a show of support for the rate increase. She, like residents, questions the capital improvements Carolina Water says it made and needs the increase to be reimbursed. She said the latest increase proposal is “certainly not how I would like them to do business.”
“I think the rate increase is unwarranted and a slap in the face to the customers they service,” Love said.
Carolina Water staff told residents at a meeting last month in Lake Wylie that a $97 per month water and sewer bill would increase to $125 if the rate increases are approved in late spring.
Customer complaints are common among Lake Wylie residents. Several past rate increases brought out hundreds of people in protest. Last month, residents at the Camp Thunderbird meeting questioned utility staff about poor water quality and already too high prices.
As of Tuesday morning, 21 people statewide had signed up in protest -- at least nine are from the Lake Wylie area and five from Fort Mill.
In 2016, residents asked the county to get rid of Carolina Water, as its decades-long franchise agreement came was to end in 2017. The county had options of taking over the system or setting more stringent service standards in a new contract. The county and utility signed two six-month extensions, giving the groups time to negotiate a solution. The most recent extension ends Feb. 17.
Love said she expects an update from county staff at council’s Jan. 16 meeting. In recent weeks, she said she anticipates an agreement coming soon.
While the intervenor deadline is Jan. 9, customers may submit concerns or complaints to provide testimony through March 12, or at a public hearing April 3 in Columbia.
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Full details about the proposed Carolina Water Service rate application are available at psc.sc.gov under “search/docket” tab. The docket number is 2017-292-WS.
Public comments can be mailed to Public Service Commission of South Carolina, 101 Executive Center Drive, suite 100, Columbia, SC 29210; emailed email@example.com; or submitted in an online form to the public service commission.