State panel restores increases in Graniteville water rates

COLUMBIA -- It does not appear Graniteville residents will get lower water rates, despite the efforts of local lawmakers.

The state Public Service Commission decided this afternoon to return the water rates to the higher levels that had alarmed many residents when they got their latest bills.

The panel took the action after negotiations between Avondale Mills and local lawmakers could not provide a compromise.

Last week the PSC voted to temporarily suspend the new rates pending today's meeting. The new rates, which were approved by the PSC in June, were requested by Avondale Mills, the company that oversees the Graniteville water system.

Avondale officials argued that since mill operations ceased in the area they had been losing money subsidizing the water system. They said the rate increases were needed to help the company break even, adding that customers were given a 60-day notice and there were two public meetings on the topic.

But state Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, said residents didn't know when the new rates would be enforced and didn't have time to adjust their usage before they received the first bills reflecting the higher rate on July 31.

In some cases, bills were hundreds of dollars higher.

The PSC does not have another meeting scheduled until October.

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