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South Carolina sewer consolidation plan sparks disagreements

South Carolina sewer consolidation plan sparks disagreements

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A proposal to consolidate some South Carolina sewer systems is creating sharp divisions over whether the plan is a political power grab or a savvy way to make needed improvements.

Greenville County leaders are deciding whether to merge six sewer districts, with a public hearing set for Monday.

The Greenville News reports the plan calls for MetroConnects to take over sewer collection services in the following special purpose districts: Berea Public Service District; Gantt Fire, Sewer and Police District; Marietta Water, Sanitation and Sewer District; Parker Sewer and Fire Subdistrict; Taylors Fire and Sewer District; and Wade Hampton Fire and Sewer District.

Calculations used in a consultant's financial assessment of the plan determined yearly sewer collection costs for more than 40,000 customers in three sewer districts could increase an average of 52%, while annual costs for 50,000 customers in the remaining districts could drop by an average of 7%, the newspaper reported.

Those calculations are based on rate data from MetroConnects. The net result could add up to a $2 million annual increase in customer fees if the sewer plan is adopted.

Supporters of the consolidation proposal say it's needed to enable development and protect the environment, with at least $245 million in sewer improvements identified as needed. They say the small sewer districts can't afford or are unwilling to repair and replace aging pipes.

Phyllis Henderson, a former state representative and Greenville County commissioner, said officials running the special purpose districts are mainly interested in “maintaining the little kingdom, the little fiefdom they have — the power.”

Henderson is part of a group called Waste Water Unification Towards a New Greenville Environment, which has created a website to promote the consolidation plan and aired ads on conservative talk-radio stations.

Opponents of the consolidation plan want to keep smaller districts led by locally elected leaders, who they say can provide personalized service to their taxpayers.

“This is a backroom power grab at its very worst, and it will hurt the most unfortunate people in our communities,” Sarah Franco, a Parker Sewer and Fire Subdistrict commissioner, said during a Thursday press conference.

Four of the special purpose districts — Gantt, Marietta, Parker and Taylors — have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the county’s consolidation plan.

They asked a judge to block a public hearing that the County Council intends to hold Monday because only a limited number of residents will be allowed to attend in person because of coronavirus pandemic. The request was denied.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, The Greenville News.


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