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Lexington Mayor MacDougall says Carolina Water’s I-20 plant issue is about people, not money

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) Town of Lexington’s Mayor Steve MacDougall said Friday afternoon that the town had anticipated Carolina Water Service refusing their latest offer to buy that company’s I-20 waste water plant. The Town had offered what they consider fair market value for the plant recently. This offer was made after having it appraised by an outside firm.

In anticipation of that refusal, when the town sent their last offer to CES, they also sent a letter of condemnation. This allows them to immediately take possession of the plant under existing laws. These types of laws are in place for governments to do what’s considered best for the greater good of all.

At this point, Carolina Water Service will turn the plant over to the town and then take them to court. They have indicated that they have always been eager to turn the facility over to Lexington, they just want a price that reflects what they consider fair market value, an amount higher than what Lexington has ever offered them in the past.

The plant itself is actually a moot point. Lexington has always said they planned to close the plant that discharges treated waste water into the lower Saluda River. They would then connect those customers served by the old plant to the Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission’s existing system. That commission, a provider that handles much of the water service, and almost all of the sewers south of Lake Murray, pipes their waste water to the state of the art facility owned by the City of Cayce on the Congaree River. This is off Old State Road.

The real value in the deal to transfer the facility is not the plant, it's the customer base served by CWS. These people pay sewer fees for disposal of their waste water to someone, and as soon as the ownership transfers, those fees will go to the Town of Lexington and not Carolina Water. In effect, the people are the value in the deal, according to Lexington officials. Mayor MacDougall said Friday the issue was about people and not dollars, “We care about those people and Carolina Water doesn’t. They are our neighbors, and we plan to treat them that way.”

Robert Yanity, Carolina Water’s Communications Coordinator, has said in several recent releases to the press that their company would be more than happy to transfer ownership of the plant to Lexington. This is something they will now have to do because of the condemnation, something that Yanity says they are thrilled about. Yanity has said repeatedly that they welcome the condemnation process because they will eventually get their day in court and hopefully sooner than later. Yanity said in a statement Friday, “We look forward to moving through this process quickly and encourage the Town to make every effort to not delay these proceedings as they have done in the past.”

CWS has disputed the town’s interpretation of Lexington’s own appraiser, and feel as if they (CWS) have never received a reasonable offer that’s anywhere near fair market value. He said that NewGen, the company the town used, said the, “System has been maintained and kept in adequate working order and condition.” Carolina Water believes that this means for this, and other reasons, the plant is worth more than Lexington has said they would pay.

As indicated earlier, the two will eventually end up in court where both sides will be able to explain how they have attached a value to the plant and its customer base. From that point forward, it will be up to a judge to decide who’s right, and what the plant and the customers are really worth. When that’s done, the town will have to pay that amount or appeal the decisions to a higher court.

We will continue to follow this story, and update as the condemnation and the court hearings proceed.

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