Originally created 12/16/05

Across South Carolina



Natural gas customers to pay 4 percent more

COLUMBIA - South Carolina natural gas customers will be charged more for their heat this month, the state utility company announced Wednesday.

South Carolina Electric and Gas bills mailed out Thursday will be approximately 4 percent higher than November rates. According to a release, the impact on a typical natural gas consumer using 100 therms of natural gas would be approximately $7 per month.

Under a settlement agreement approved by the Public Service Commission this year, SCE&G is authorized to make monthly billing adjustments such as this one to keep pace with the cost of natural gas.

Officials said the change is only to cover the increased cost of natural gas, not to generate profit for the company.

The utility increased natural gas prices by as much as 45 percent for residential customers after the Gulf Coast hurricanes earlier this year. .

More charges are filed in trooper bribe case

COLUMBIA - Investigators have filed additional charges against a state trooper accused of making Hispanic drivers pay to avoid tickets.

Lance Cpl. Stephen A. Watts was charged Tuesday with malicious injury to personal property. According to an arrest warrant, Lance Cpl. Watts "willfully and maliciously" slashed a motorist's tire during a traffic stop.

Lance Cpl. Watts also was charged with misconduct in office. According to a second arrest warrant, he "initiated traffic stops" between Oct. 1 and Nov. 11 then "forced motorists to pay cash to conclude the stop and avoid going to jail or receiving a citation." Lance Cpl. Watts was earlier charged with misconduct in office in connection with traffic stops targeting Hispanic drivers. Investigators say Lance Cpl. Watts pulled over a Hispanic motorist and forced the driver to pay as much as $40 to avoid a ticket.

The incidents are being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division.

Day care worker is guilty of lewd acts

GAFFNEY - A former Gaffney day care worker was found guilty of indecent exposure and lewd acts on a minor.

Antonio Sarratt, 20, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison, along with mental health counseling and no unsupervised contact with children. He will also be added to the state's sex offender registry.

Mr. Sarratt was accused of exposing himself to five young boys left in his care.

The victims told police that Mr. Sarratt helped them with their homework and inappropriately touched them and ordered them to touch him.

Dam work will lower Lake Murray 10 feet

COLUMBIA - South Carolina Electric and Gas says it will lower Lake Murray about 10 feet starting next month to perform maintenance on the original dam.

The utility says it will bring the lake down about 4 inches each day starting Jan. 1. Once the water is at the 348-foot level, SCE&G will begin working on a 400-yard section of riprap used to protect the dam from erosion. The company said maintenance should take four to six weeks to finish.

- From wire reports