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This hot utility rate hike for water customers is cooling off in York County - for now

Carolina Water Service customers oppose water rate increase

Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Clover SC residents oppose Carolina Water Service rate increases.
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Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Clover SC residents oppose Carolina Water Service rate increases.

The water rate increase for Lake Wylie customers won’t happen after all — for now.

Blue Granite Water Co. attorneys sent a letter Wednesday to the South Carolina Public Service Commission asking to withdraw its application filed in the fall. But the company will ask for rate changes again, according to the letter.

“Given the unanticipated delays in these proceedings,” wrote attorney Sam Wellborn representing Blue Granite, “the company believes that customers and judicial economy will be best served by these matters being considered as part of the company’s next general rate case.”

The letter doesn’t mention when the next rate case may come, although past comments by the company indicate a strategy of requesting smaller rate increases every couple of years.

A public hearing had been scheduled Aug. 20 in Lake Wylie. That meeting was requested by lawmakers wanting Lake Wylie residents to have an opportunity to testify on record. Almost 70 letters of protest are on file in the case, as are letters from U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman and S.C. Sen. Wes Climer.

Susan Bromfield, president of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, said she’d like to think pressure from the protest letters, Norman, Climer and state Rep. Tommy Pope had something to do with it.

“Perhaps they will be better prepared to address the issues when they make the request,” Bromfield said. “I suspect in a few months.”

Bromfield, whose chamber sent a letter concerned about how water and sewer rate increases of around 20% could harm business, said the withdrawn request is good news.

“We appreciate and thank our elected officials for always being responsive and working on all our behalf,” she said.

Along with the rate increase, the company requested a new mechanism allowing regular increases without going through the public hearing process. That concerned Climer.

“I have grave concerns about subjecting the utility’s customers to any rate mechanism that relies upon the company acting in good faith,” Climer wrote to the commission in November. “At a minimum, customers deserve adequate notice of the proposed change and the public interest would be well-served by subjecting the filing to the scrutiny of the commission’s hearing process.”

Just before Memorial Day, Blue Granite put outdoor water use on a schedule for customers until at least early October citing high use in the area. It continued despite, at one time, near flood levels on the lake.

Norman wrote a letter in June, concerned with what he called “a draconian water conservation protocol.” He said a sudden water shortage in a lakeside community is “inconceivable.”

In response to that letter the company said a 10-year capital plan for the Lake Wylie area began in May 2018, and includes a backup connection with the city of Charlotte required by a York County agreement and other improvements.

“Because of the growth in area demand and the length of time it takes to construct a second water interconnection and a new water tower, these are investments that should have been begun before 2018, but are now underway,” Deborah Clark, Blue Granite spokesperson, said then.

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