Originally created 02/08/00

Council reviews 20-year deals



The North Augusta City Council soon will consider entering 20-year franchise agreements with local electric companies.

South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and Aiken Electric Cooperative will gain rights to use North Augusta's public rights of way to sell electricity in the city for 20 years.

In exchange, the city will receive franchise fees equal to 3 percent of the companies' gross sales in North Augusta. The companies also would match city expenses in special installations of electrical equipment, such as the proposed relocation of downtown power lines from overhead to underground.

The city could enter five-year contracts with the companies but in SCE&G's case, North Augusta would lose financial assistance provided for special projects.

The city's current agreement with SCE&G expires April 1. North Augusta never has had an agreement with Aiken Electric Cooperative, but city officials pursued one because the city has annexed areas served by the cooperative, City Administrator Charles Martin said.

Most city council members said during a study session Monday that they preferred longer agreements. Mayor Lark Jones and Councilman Kent Sullivan pointed to the utilities' record of customer service and community support, and to the benefits of receiving financial help with upcoming projects.

SCE&G had pushed for the long-term deal. The long-term agreements help the company's bond rating and a 20-year deal in North Augusta would match those signed by 90 other cities, said Bob Householder, SCE&G franchises manager.

The council will consider entering a five-year franchise agreement with SCE&G to provide natural-gas service in North Augusta. The measures likely will come before the council in two weeks, Mr. Martin said.

The council also must consider a franchise agreement with Comcast for cable-television service in coming weeks.

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.