SC Supreme Court throws out lower court ruling on Graniteville water rates

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Online extra: Read the appeal letter that was sent to the the South Carolina Public Service Commission. (PDF format)

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The South Carolina Supreme Court has issued a ruling negating a previous Circuit Court injunction that was temporarily placed on new water and sewer rates for Graniteville and Vaucluse residents.

State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, said the Supreme Court essentially found that the water issue shouldn’t have gone to a circuit court for consideration but that the proper procedure for a challenge was to first go back to the South Carolina Public Service Commission and then the state appeals court.

“It’s a setback for the people we are representing and the people having to pay the water bills,” Mr. Smith said today.

In response to the supreme court ruling, Mr. Smith said some Graniteville resident today have filed an appeal with the PSC concerning their complaint that proper notice wasn’t given of new water and sewer rates, which were approved in June and in some cases caused Graniteville and Vaucluse residents’ bills to increase by hundreds of dollars.

Already, another appeal had been pending with the PSC as to whether the rates were fair. Mr. Smith said that appeal is still awaiting a ruling by the PSC.

In the circuit court case, the issue presented only dealt with whether residents were given proper notice of the new rates being approved before receiving their first higher bill in July. That case was prompted in part at the request of Mr. Smith, state lawmakers Shane Massey and Tom Young and Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt, who is a Graniteville resident. Circuit Court Judge Jack Early ruled in August that Avondale was temporarily restricted from collecting on the new rates that were originally due Aug. 15 and couldn’t implement the new rates "until proper notice is given." He also ruled that late fees on bills due Aug. 15 couldn’t be charged, and customers' water and sewer service couldn’t be terminated based on overdue payments of July 31 bills.

Judge Early found at the time that his court had jurisdiction because the case is not specifically addressing the rates but focusing on whether proper notice of their approval was given.

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