Tega Cay prepares for water rate hearing Dec. 3

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comNovember 30, 2012 

— A final ruling in Tega Cay Water Service’s case to raise rates won’t come for more than a month, but Monday night could go a long way toward deciding it.

The utility, which provides water and sewer service to part of Tega Cay, applied with the state Public Service Commission this summer to increase rates by more than 18 percent for water, 67 percent for sewer. A hearing in Columbia comes the first week of January.

The commission also decided on a hearing in Tega Cay, set to begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the Glennon Center.

Jocelyn Boyd, chief clerk and administrator for the Public Service Commission, said testimony given at the meeting will be sworn into the public record used in deciding the case.

“The commissioners will be available to hear any concerns that the residents or customers have,” she said.

Currently, Boyd said, the entire commission is scheduled to attend the hearing.

“We’re expecting the entire group, all seven of them,” she said.

The company says the increases are needed to cover improvements already made to the system and operating expenses. Residents argue that a record of high prices and poor service show that the hikes shouldn’t be allowed.

Linda Stevenson opposed rate increases in 2006 and 2010. She’s also helped organize a citizen advisory group that’s behind norateincrease.com. Stevenson’s group believes it’s better prepared to present its case for not raising the rates this time around.

“I’m pretty sure that the Public Service Commission will hear us and recognize our plight,” she said.

The group even has a meeting set for 6 p.m. at the Glennon Center on Monday to prepare for the public hearing. Sworn testimony won’t be taken on Monday, but residents can game plan and compare cases against the company’s request.

“Anyone who’s interested in talking or who’s just interested in the (hearing) can come,” Stevenson said. “What’s really important is that we get massive numbers of people out there.”

A protest link has been up on the city’s official website for months. Last week Tega Cay City Council approved a resolution against the rate increase. Councilman Ron Kirby said most, if not all, members plan to voice opposition either in writing or at the meeting.

“It was unanimous,” Kirby said. “We’re not the authority, but we’re standing beside the residents here to fight this all the way, because it’s ridiculous.”

The case docket on the Public Service Commission’s website allows for letters of protest. Mid-last week, there already were more than 660 protests to the case, many written on behalf of more than one person.

Parts of the city that aren’t served by Tega Cay Water Service use Tega Cay Utilities Department.

That public utility approved a water increase of 10 percent and 5 percent for sewer this fall in response to an expected bump up from its provider. What that those rates didn’t increase, Tega Cay Utilities dropped the water increase and banked the sewer increase for help with future capital needs.

City officials, though in opposition to the Tega Cay Water Service increase, say it’s likely that Tega Cay Utilities Department will see increases for the next several years to meet growing water demand.

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