Tega Cay finalizes water purchase

Tega Cay now owns the former Tega Cay Water Service.

The city closed on the formerly private utility system Thursday afternoon. Tega Cay agreed to a $5.85 million purchase price, part of a $7.9 million bond that refinances existing debt on the system it already operated – Tega Cay Utilities Department.

“There have been several different times over the past 30 years where the city has looked into this, but we were able to come up with a plan this time to get it done,” said Charlie Funderburk, city manager. “This is an $8 million deal 30 years in the making.”

Rick Durham, president of Tega Cay Water Service, said the community made it clear to elected officials they wanted city control of water and wastewater operations. The move allows his company, part of Utilities Inc., which has other systems throughout South Carolina, to focus attention elsewhere.

“After spending millions of dollars upgrading the Tega Cay utility system, we will now be able to focus our attention and financial resources ensuring the continuation of safe and reliable service in our other South Carolina communities,” Durham said in a statement Friday. “With the significant improvements previously completed and the transfer of assets to the city, the problems associated with the Tega Cay aging infrastructure should diminish over time.”

Linda Stevenson, who led a half dozen residents in monitoring and reporting on Tega Cay Water Service, said Thursday the group would have to meet again to determine where it goes. They may plan a celebration of the city’s purchase, she said.

“We are so happy that we have finally gotten them out of Tega Cay,” Stevenson said.

For several years residents complained of high water rates, poor customer service and repeated wastewater spills. State and environmental regulators cited the utility for spills and mandated system repairs, which the city will now complete.

City leaders believe there are some cost savings to the new deal, too. The city pays about $178,000 annually on the debt it brought into the new bond. Now the city will pay about $90,000 annually on it.

“It’s basically cutting that payment in half,” Funderburk said.

Tega Cay Water Service served the older sections of Tega Cay. The older system will come under city control as TCUD-II. The two systems likely will be consolidated at some point, but won’t be soon as to avoid impacting rates, improvement costs and other liabilities.