The York County Council could push its Carolina Water Service decision back six months, though leaders say no one should read too much into the delay.
The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday to extend the agreement with the utility – which provides services to much of the Lake Wylie community – six months past the Feb. 17 expiration. That would give the county and utility more time to negotiate.
Without some type of sale or contract change, the franchise agreement could be renewed for another two decades. The county has several other options.
The county could offer a price for the system, have Carolina Water name its price and go through mediation to determine how much the county would have to pay. Until a court decided the outcome, the county would have to take on significant operation costs and run the system – without knowing whether it would take over the system long-term.
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In another scenario, the county could name a dozen or more issues Carolina Water needs to address to continue operating the system. The county could start saving for a purchase in the event Carolina Water doesn’t meet those expectations.
York County leaders aren’t showing their cards yet, but they’re taking a long look at their hand.
“It’s borderline being a gag order, because you don’t want to blow a good deal,” said Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represents the Lake Wylie area. “You don’t want to mess it up.”
Henderson said he wants to be “very aggressive” in pursuing options, but neither he nor other county leaders will say if there is a front-running option. Allison Love, who won a primary last spring and does not face a challenger in November’s elections, will take Henderson’s seat in January. She already is participa ting in some discussions with county leaders.
The public shouldn’t be disheartened by the possible delay, Love said.
“Look at the extension as a safety net,” she said.
County Manager Bill Shanahan said he would rather not take that extra time, and nothing says he has to take it all even with council approval.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” he said.
County leaders say there is no set price tag for the utility, which doesn’t want to sell its system. Shanahan mentioned a past appraisal and a possible $15 million sale price with as much or more county investment to improve the system. Those figures are only estimates.
The bigger issue is whether final numbers will be affordable for and beneficial to the tax base.
“I don’t care what number we’re talking about,” said state Rep. Ralph Norman, who wants an ownership change for the utility system. “They haven’t agreed to anything.”
Want to go?
The York County Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the County Agricultural Building, 6 S. Congress St., York.