Water system to be handed over Monday

AIKEN --- The water authority that agreed to take over Avondale Mills' water system will officially ink an agreement Monday, but officials said Friday that work on the dilapidated system is halted until legal matters are settled.

Calvin Smith, the general manager for Valley Public Service Authority, said the board of commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. Monday to sign the agreement. The board agreed last month to manage the system after customers complained of high increases in their water rates. The water authority will have to keep the current rates until at least late January.

It will take months for the water authority and the county to close on the deal with Avondale, Mr. Smith said.

Issues such as easements and right-of-way were not considered when Avondale owned the land in Graniteville and Vaucluse several decades ago.

Those are among issues that must be handled before stimulus funds will be granted for the water system's rehabilitation, said County Administrator Clay Killian.

The county must now have legal permission to find and re-lay sewerage and water lines in the yards of residents.

"It didn't matter where they put the water and sewer lines then," Mr. Killian said. "The lines are running under people's back yards, under front steps, and we have to have legal access to work on these things. It's a monumental undertaking."

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control has agreed to grant the county $4 million in stimulus funds to repair the sewer system and $2 million to the Valley Public Service Authority for the water system.

But if the legal matters remain unresolved and significant progress on repairs does not occur by February, those funds will not be available, Mr. Killian said.

"There are conditions we've got to meet with these stimulus funds," he said. "We'll have to have an agreement in the next few weeks to meet all the deadlines."

In the next couple of weeks Avondale Mills officials will produce engineering drawings to help the county locate the sewer lines, Mr. Killian said. The status of the agreement will be discussed at the county council meeting on Oct. 20.

Both the water authority and the county have 120 days after the agreement is signed Monday to decide whether to continue to manage the system, Mr. Smith said.

The old water system will remain intact while easement issues are handled, so the 550 customers will not lose water service.

"We've been working to get this water system right, but there are some things that have to be done," Mr. Killian said. "Those people want relief, and we're doing what we can to make that happen."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395 ext. 110 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

VALLEY PUBLIC SIGNS AGREEMENT

WHAT: Valley Public Service Authority board of commissioners will meet

WHEN: 5 p.m. Monday

WHERE: The authority office, 435 Pine St., Gloverville