Lawmakers ask court to halt Graniteville water rate hike

Thursday, Aug 13, 2009 5:22 PM
Last updated 8:53 PM
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AIKEN – Area state representatives announced this afternoon they have received a temporary court injunction stopping a recent decision to reinstitute higher water and sewer rates for Graniteville and Vaucluse customers.

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State representative Tom Young, right, speaks with the media as state senator Shane Massey, center, and state representative Roland Smith, left, look on during a press conference in front of the Aiken County Courthouse Thursday.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
State representative Tom Young, right, speaks with the media as state senator Shane Massey, center, and state representative Roland Smith, left, look on during a press conference in front of the Aiken County Courthouse Thursday.

“At least for the short term, we’ve achieved a victory for the residents of Graniteville and Vaucluse,” said state Rep. Tom Young, R-Aiken, who made the announcement in front of the Aiken County Courthouse along with State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, and Sen. Shane Massey, whose district includes Aiken.

“I’m absolutely elated that something’s being done,” said Graniteville resident Wayne Johnson, who was among a small group of residents attending the news conference. “They’ve worked hard.”

The lawmakers were quick to note, though, that the order doesn’t address the higher rates but focuses on their argument that residents should have been given proper notice of when the rates would be enacted. That way, the lawmakers said, residents could have adjusted their watering before being billed.

The lawmakers said state law required a notice to be published in The Aiken Standard within 10 days of the rates being initially approved by the South Carolina Public Service Commission in June, but argued that didn’t happen.

“This is about the simple concept of notice,” Mr. Massey said.

The temporary restraining order is pending a 2 p.m. August 25 hearing before Judge Jack Early at the Aiken County Courthouse and comes one day after the PSC decided a second time to allow the new rates. In some cases, the higher rates caused customers’ bills to increase by hundreds of dollars.

On Aug. 5 the PSC voted to temporarily suspend the new rates pending yesterday’s meeting. The issue of the higher fees, the lawmakers said, is now set to be readdressed by the PSC on Oct. 6.

Today’s court order, which was granted by Judge Michael Baxley, prevents Avondale from collecting under the new rate by Saturday’s due date or imposing late fees pending the August 25 hearing.

The lawmakers said that unless Avondale comes back with another offer, Graniteville and Vaucluse customers shouldn’t have to pay their bills at least until the August 25 hearing, where the judge is expected to rule whether a more permanent restraining order should be issued.

The new rates were approved by the PSC in June, being requested by Avondale Mills, the company that oversees the Graniteville water system. Avondale officials have 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.

Avondale officials said they didn’t agree with the PSC’s Aug. 5 vote to suspend the rates and planned to fight any reversal.

The area delegation said Avondale officials had “refused” to discuss the notice issue and have now been made aware of the injunction.

The delegation also said at today’s conference that a long-term solution is in the works for another entity, likely the Valley Public Service Authority, to take over the system. They said they hoped that would produce lower rates in the long term. Mr. Young said the goal is to have the VPSA or another entity take over the service by the end of the year and implement major improvements to the system using available stimulus dollars.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com

Comments (16) Add comment
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imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 08/13/09 - 04:25 pm
0
0
At least some local

At least some local Republicans are not following the national party line of doing whatever it takes to make corporations even richer, even if it means stealing from citizens.

Carefree
0
Points
Carefree 08/13/09 - 04:27 pm
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thank you shane massey you

thank you shane massey you have been doing a great job this week and i'm glad you have kept us all informed via facebook!

Carefree
0
Points
Carefree 08/13/09 - 04:46 pm
0
0
flush out felker!flush out

flush out felker!flush out felker!flush out felker!flush out felker!flush out felker!flush out felker!

thistownisunbelievable
1
Points
thistownisunbelievable 08/13/09 - 04:52 pm
0
0
imd, thanks for class warfare

imd, thanks for class warfare talking points consisting of emtpy leftist rhetoric.

curly123053
5427
Points
curly123053 08/13/09 - 04:59 pm
0
0
Maybe now the courts can

Maybe now the courts can order Avondale to provide meter readings from all their customer's meters for the next 2 or 3 months to determine if there are discrepancies. With all the comments it seems like Avondale either needs to replace and update all the meters, or prove to the courts that the present ones are functioning properly. They also need to prove they been reading the meters period. And, more than 6 people have got to turn out to make a statement ! I know it is hard with people working and all but still it takes a crowd to sometimes get things done.

ProudToBeFromGraniteville
0
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ProudToBeFromGraniteville 08/13/09 - 05:59 pm
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thistown.... huh? curly...

thistown.... huh?
curly... thanks for the turnaround!

Bubba442
0
Points
Bubba442 08/13/09 - 06:05 pm
0
0
Are these the same people

Are these the same people that are trying to prevent this country from having National Health care? The people of South Carolina need to oust their Public Service Commission and boot their unlawful governor down the road...it is against the state law of South Carolina for the governor to commit adultry. The penalty is 30 days in jail and 1000.00$ fine.

Carefree
0
Points
Carefree 08/13/09 - 06:32 pm
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0
Thanks curly123053!!! Wow i

Thanks curly123053!!! Wow i hope that is what happens i go to church with some of these guys who supposedly read these meters and they better not lie! It's wrong what's been done and they need to tell the truth!

GACopperhead
6
Points
GACopperhead 08/13/09 - 07:24 pm
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This isn't about something

This isn't about something wrong that Avondale has done, this is about people not wanting to pay a fair price for what they receive. They got their notice, they didn't want to turn off their dang sprniklers. Unreal. Why should Avondale pay for their being obstinate and free with other peoples' money?

Carefree
0
Points
Carefree 08/13/09 - 07:27 pm
0
0
No you're right this isn't

No you're right this isn't about avondale not reading the meters and faking the totals at all you must have it all figured out for us GACopperhead.

ProudToBeFromGraniteville
0
Points
ProudToBeFromGraniteville 08/13/09 - 07:41 pm
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0
Is there any way that I can

Is there any way that I can ignore GACopperhead's ignorant comments? I'm tired of reading them!

B.A.M
0
Points
B.A.M 08/13/09 - 08:29 pm
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GACopperhead - save your

GACopperhead - save your comments for something else. The fact of the matter is that residents in Vaucluse have meters that are covered up by dirt and spiders - guarantee you they haven't been read in a while; water mains break and run for days without anyone from Avondale attempting to fix them; pressure surges break residents pipes all the time... and the list could go on and on... the fact is Avondale wants VPSA or someone else to take over so they can rid their hands of it...even after that the rates will and should go up but to a rate that is more consistent with the rest of the surronding areas...

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 08/13/09 - 11:31 pm
0
0
GAC, the rates should be

GAC, the rates should be raised to a fair price, but if their rates are now four times that of Aiken or Augusta, that does not sound fair.

MyOpinion2
5
Points
MyOpinion2 08/13/09 - 11:38 pm
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0
I imagine if something is not

I imagine if something is not done about the water charge, there will be NO Granitville, or the only ones that will stay will dig deep wells, and get septic tanks? I know I would Not stay, I could not afford those prices. Sounds like the town wants everyone to pick up and move.

The Ode
2
Points
The Ode 08/13/09 - 11:52 pm
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imdstuf - what is the rate of

imdstuf - what is the rate of Graniteville's city taxes compared to those in Aiken or Augusta?

The Ode
2
Points
The Ode 08/13/09 - 11:54 pm
0
0
I wonder if the politicians

I wonder if the politicians can get an injunction against Starbucks because I don't think I should have to pay more than $1 for a cup of their coffee.......this political grandstanding and the selfish, irresponsible, victim mentality of the Graniteville people is but a microscosm of what is wrong with America. Personal accountability has become irrelevant.

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