Orangeburg County Council has awarded contracts to improve water systems in eastern Orangeburg County.
Now several council members say they hope the public will sign up as customers.
“If you ever start using city water, you’ll never go back,” councilman Harry Wimberly said. “It’s the difference between day and night.”
The money will be used to extend water service in eastern Orangeburg County, including the Bowman, Providence and Vance areas. County Council approved the contracts Tuesday.
Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith said that when the county extends water or sewer service to a new area, typically about 20 percent of the residents tap in right away.
But “it doesn’t pay to wait. It only costs to wait,” she said.
Chairman Johnnie Wright said the county spends “a lot of time and money” to extend utilities. “We’re trying to improve the quality of life in the county,” he explained.
Councilman Clyde Livingston said, “It is still a person’s right to choose” whether to become a customer or not. “I would never want to deny their right to refuse.”
However, he said he personally believes getting a tap into a new line is smart because it’s healthier.
Some jurisdictions that extend utility lines make hookups mandatory to ensure creation of a revenue stream sufficient to repay the debt. But in this case the primary customers will be businesses in the John Matthews Industrial Park, which is under development on U.S. 301. Residential customers are being recruited simply because the line and the capacity are already going to be there.
County Administrator Harold Young said the biggest objection he’s heard to switching to public utilities is the fact they come with a monthly bill. He said residents often fail to consider the cost of well water and septic tanks, such as maintenance and replacement and the electric bill for the pump. And fire insurance rates are higher in the absence of a water system.
Council awarded the following low bids:
* Barwick Plumbing LLC of Pinewood, $2.5 million to lay pipe for the county Phase 1 water system improvements, and Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, Ky., $1.5 million to build an elevated storage tank.
* Palmetto Site Prep of Orangeburg, $1.7 million for Town of Bowman Phase 1 water system improvements, and Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, Ky., $2.4 million to build an elevated storage tank.
* Maxcy Hicks and Sons of New Zion, $1 million for the Vance water main project.
The Lake Marion Regional Water Agency sells water wholesale to Orangeburg County and through county-owned pipes to the towns of Bowman and Santee. Santee, in turn, will serve customers in Vance, which does not have a utility department.
* Council approved two appointments to the Tax Equalization Board. Councilman Willie B. Owens nominated Gilbert Cleckley and councilman Heyward Livingston nominated Charlie Stoudemire.
* Bernice Tribble, outgoing executive director of the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, introduced her successor, Jennifer Hoesing. Several council members thanked Tribble for her service.
* Council entered executive session for the purpose of hearing about an economic development matter and getting an update on two court cases involving the late Sheriff Larry Williams.
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