Graniteville water rates halted again by court order

Monday, Aug 24, 2009 11:19 AM
Last updated 10:09 PM
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Related: Water rate boost tied to many factors

Circuit Court Judge Jack Early this morning signed a further temporary restraining order on the new water and sewer rates for Graniteville and Vaucluse residents.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, announced that sometime this week there might be an agreement worked out for Avondale Mills to turn over the Graniteville system to the Valley Public Service Authority.

"We think a decision could be reached this week," he said. "That's what we're hoping for anyway."

Lawmakers have said a new entity overseeing the system could spur much needed improvements to the system and ultimately foster more reasonable rates.

Concerning today's temporary court order, State Sen. Shane Massey, whose district includes Aiken, said it essentially finds that the South Carolina Public Service Commission should have given 10-days published notice of the new rates that it approved in June at the request of Avondale, thereby allowing residents to adjust their watering. The order also finds that area state lawmakers had merit in their argument about proper notice not being given of the new rates and temporarily keeps Avondale from implementing them "until proper notice is given."

Mr. Massey said that a 10-day published notice now by the PSC would null and void the July 31 bills under the new rates, meaning water usage for that month would be billed on the old rates.

Mr. Massey said that after the 10-days notice, the new rates could then be imposed from that point forward.

Mr. Massey said lawmakers are now expecting a to-be-determined hearing where a more permanent injunction could be issued.

"There will have to be at some point, unless we can come to some type of an agreement with Avondale, there will have to be a full blown hearing for the judge to consider everything," Mr. Massey said, adding that Judge Early likely would be the presiding judge for that ruling as well.

Today's order states that if the circuit court issues a final ruling against the lawmakers who requested the injuction, Avondale would be able to collect on the July 31 bills and any others that come due after then.

Stephen Felker, of Avondale, said today that his company plans to appeal today's ruling, noting that they don't feel the circuit court has jurisdiction over the case.

He also confirmed that his company is working to have an agreement as early as this week with Valley Public Service Authority, but he said a closing to turnover the system still likely wouldn't happen until the end of this year.

According to today's signed court order, Judge Early found that at least temporarily Avondale is still restricted from collecting on the new rate, imposing late fees on bills that were originally due August 15 or terminating customers' water and sewer service. The order states that on August 12 Mr. Felker had issued a written statement advising water and sewer service would be cut off for those who didn't pay their bills on time.

Charles Terreni, a spokesman for the PSC, had not heard this morning that there had been a ruling and said he would need to review the order before commenting in depth. He did, however, say the PSC still plans to make its case before a judge, adding that today's ruling won't be the final adjudication of the case.

Comments (14) Add comment
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Nammy3
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Nammy3 08/24/09 - 11:26 am
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*Y*a*Y* The way I see

*Y*a*Y* The way I see this--when Avondale took over Graniteville Company-they KNEW what all was involved in that takeover.....including these water/meter problems. There was talk about this in our plants from the people employed and living there. Good luck with this Graniteville!!

bettyboop
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bettyboop 08/24/09 - 11:33 am
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Way to keep fighting !!!

Way to keep fighting !!!

ProudToBeFromGraniteville
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ProudToBeFromGraniteville 08/24/09 - 11:33 am
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This is great news because

This is great news because the July readings were wrong to begin with. Now people have been able to go out and take pictures of their meters. You won't be seeing these ridiculously high usages next month, so the bills should be more managable.

bgcoleman
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bgcoleman 08/24/09 - 01:48 pm
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As usual, the Utility Service

As usual, the Utility Service Commission did nothing for the public. they only work for for the utilities.

imho1
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imho1 08/24/09 - 02:38 pm
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There is no reason a private

There is no reason a private company should be subsidizing resident's water bills. The new rates are very much in line with what everyone else in the area pays. Graniteville residents should be thankful for the cheap rates they had in the past, and quit fighting reasonable rates. If the residents continue to complain; the mill may just get out of the water business completely and let the residents take it over.

Carefree
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Carefree 08/24/09 - 03:08 pm
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The best thing about this

The best thing about this article is that if finally vindicates the Graniteville Residents. We've been telling all the nay sayers that we did not receive the notice they all assumed we did! So forgive me while i gloat for a sec and say in your face you stupid idiots! I will take the backlash for that statement at least it will be deserved unlike the previous negative bashing Graniteville Residents have received!

Carefree
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Carefree 08/24/09 - 03:11 pm
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ProudtobefromGraniteville

ProudtobefromGraniteville guess what today is the 24th!Guess who i haven't seen the water guys coming to read the meters!Where you at?Coming to read my meter or not!

Carefree
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Carefree 08/24/09 - 03:52 pm
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Guess what!Guess who read her

Guess what!Guess who read her own meter today!Me!Guess what it said i used 8000 gallons less than last month!Wanta know why cause i stayed in behind them and read it myself and it's documented here and on every other source i can find!1468 to 1472 that was the difference they charge me on a regular months bill 10000 gallons wonder how long they've been charging me what they want. They only reason they got the 1468 reading last month is because hazmat came out and documented the sewer system. How long have they been charging me the wrong figures before that!

Native007
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Native007 08/24/09 - 05:09 pm
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Very Nice. Good to see

Very Nice. Good to see justice being carried out.

Yellow House
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Yellow House 08/24/09 - 07:10 pm
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Yep, we have been taking pics

Yep, we have been taking pics every 7 days. Last month 21000...today 7000 gallons.

I have no idea what to do. Our bill was $245, and we paid it in the morning of the 13th(because they had reinstated the rates), that afternoon, they had a restraining order. I was waiting to see what the judge said Friday and nothing was decided yet, looked at my bank account in the morning and the check had not been cashed. I was going to put a hold on it. By Friday afternoon, someone had ran to the bank and cashed it.

I am not sure they where allowed to do it???

Yellow House
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Yellow House 08/24/09 - 07:14 pm
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I have one more question.What

I have one more question.What do we do if we get the next bill and the amounts are fudged again, and we know what our meters read? If we get a bill for above 7000...do we not have a case for false readings?

Carefree
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Carefree 08/24/09 - 08:36 pm
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Yellow House i filed a

Yellow House i filed a complaint as soon as i got the bill with the PSC for 12000 gallons of water usage and tomorrow morning as soon as they open up i'm filing a new complaint about the discrepancy in the readings. I want them to have to explain why my new bills will be so much less than the older ones where usage is concerned. Look up the Public Service Commission online and there should be a 800 number to contact the PSC tell the operator you need to file a complaint against avondale mills. They will try to intimidate you by saying well you know you might have to come to columbia for a hearing on this. Tell them fine i'll do that if you can cause to me it's worth the 50 min drive to see them answer. I also highly recommend joining Shane Massey's facebook page and Graniteville and Vaucluse United a group on facebook it's been very informative and i am able to send information around a lot easier to the people such as Mr. Massey that need to stay informed of our concerns.

Yellow House
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Yellow House 08/25/09 - 07:55 am
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Yes, we filed a complaint

Yes, we filed a complaint too, when we first got the bill. I guess I have to file another. When we called the first time last month...they acted as if they could care less. Shane Massey said if it happens again, get their names.

ProudToBeFromGraniteville
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ProudToBeFromGraniteville 08/25/09 - 01:01 pm
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well I called avondale this

well I called avondale this morning and asked them what my meter read (I wanted to make sure it matched what I read), and it did. I have 2 meters, I used 4000 gallons in my house and 9000 gallons in my yard in August. In July, they said I used 48000 gallons in my yard! We did cut back on our watering this month, but I am figuring that in reality, we probably used about half that in July. The lady at Avondale said when the August bills go out, they will be at the new rate and that the July portion would still be on there (if it has not been paid) at the new rate. She said that nobody's water will be cut off for not paying until this is settled.

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