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SANTEE -- South Carolina Electric & Gas and Tri-County Electric Cooperative have battled for decades over service territory in the Santee area.

According to representatives from SCE&G and Tri-County, the battle is over.

Lee Mikell and James Burn from SCE&G (now owned by Dominion Energy) and Frank Furtick from Tri-County came before Santee Town Council on Feb. 13 to seek the body’s approval of proposed changes in their assigned service areas. The council voted unanimously to OK the plan.

Historically, SCE&G has served customers within municipalities, and cooperatives were set up to serve rural residents that the investor-owned utilities were reluctant to serve while. But when property is annexed into a municipality and especially when that property is developed for industrial or commercial use, utility providers sometimes argue over who has the right to serve them.

Mikell said a 1969 map showing the utilities' service territories left some properties unassigned to either utility, and that has caused some disputes over the years.

"We've spent the last few years trying to resolve those matters," Mikell said.

First, the utilities looked at the unassigned territories and reached mutual agreement “from an operations standpoint” on which utility logically should serve them.

Next, the utilities looked at the undeveloped properties within their assigned territories. In some cases, Mikell said, it “didn’t make sense” for the original assignee to serve the property.

Then, the utilities took their proposed changes in assigned territories to the South Carolina Public Service Commission. The PSC approved the revisions for Orangeburg County last October, Mikell said.

The final step is to ask the councils in each municipality to acknowledge the new service areas. That's what brought Mikell, Burn, and Furtick to the Santee council meeting. They said they intend to seek approval from other councils in nearby towns.

Furtick said the new agreement "puts to bed the disagreements" between the utilities. "It doesn't change anything with our franchise agreement with the town.”

The Town of Santee has franchise agreements with both SCE&G and Tri-County, but property owners do not get to choose which utility they want to provide their electric service.

The utility officials emphasized that all existing customers will continue to be served by the same provider. The new agreement affects only properties that do not presently have electric service.

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Lee Hendren reports for The Santee Striper and Holly Hill Observer. Contact him at localreporter@bellsouth.net or 803-496-3242

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