Across the area

Increase on water bills moves forward in Aiken

The Aiken City Council took the first step Monday toward raising residents' water and sewer rates by 5 percent.

An ordinance that would add $1.65 per month to the average bill was approved by the council on first reading. Aiken would still have the second-lowest water and sewer rate in the state, City Manager Roger LeDuc told the council.

Since 1997, the city's yearly water and sewer expenses have increased 5.7 percent, but revenues have increased only 2.7 percent, the city manager said in a memo.

Council member Beverly Clyburn recommended a tiered fee structure for residents.

"I feel it should be structured so that those who use very little water don't bear the brunt of the increase," she said.

The council will have an opportunity to decide on a tiered fee structure on second reading.

Two men charged with sex with 15-year-old

Two men have been arrested and charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl.

Cornelius Alexander Griffin, 25, of the 3500 block of Jonathan Circle; and Leon Alexander Jr., 27, of the 2700 block of Tobacco Road, are each charged with one count of child molestation, according to a Richmond County Sheriff's report. Mr. Griffin is accused of having sex with the juvenile and photographing her nude inside EF Recording Studios at 2450 Windsor Spring Road on Friday, the report said.

He is also charged with sexual exploitation of children. Investigators said the victim left the scene with Mr. Alexander and had sex with him at his home. Both men were arrested Saturday.

Sugar mill burn patient is upgraded to serious

The condition of an Imperial Sugar employee who has been treated in the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital has been upgraded, spokeswoman Beth Frits said Monday.

Paul Seckinger, one of 20 patients admitted to the burn center from the Feb. 7 sugar refinery explosion, was upgraded to serious condition. Another Imperial Sugar patient, who was being treated in the Doctors Hospital Rehabilitation Unit, was discharged over the weekend, Ms. Frits said.

Two patients remain in critical condition in the burn center, and one is listed in good condition in the Doctors rehab unit, she said.

Deadline for March storm aid is near

Applications for loans to cover property damage resulting from the severe storms and tornadoes that struck Burke and Jefferson counties March 14-16 must be filed by Monday.

To date, the U.S. Small Business Administration has issued 781 disaster home and 244 disaster business loan applications to residents and business owners in seven affected counties. Only 95 home and 23 business loan applications have been returned.

Applications may be obtained by calling (800) 659-2955 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays, or (800) 877-8339 for the hearing-impaired. Business loan applications can also be downloaded from www.sba.gov.

The deadline to return applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is Dec. 22. Small businesses in Richmond, Jenkins, McDuffie, Screven, Warren, Washington and Glascock counties are among those eligible to apply for those loans.

-- From staff reports