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Batesburg-Leesville council chooses to proceed with Joint Water & Sewer Commission for future wa

Batesburg-Leesville, SC (Paul Kirby) - The town council of Batesburg-Leesville decided Monday night that they would begin the process of contracting with the Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission (JMWSC) in Lexington County to buy fresh water for their current needs and future growth. This decision was made after studying three plans to find a sustainable water supply for the future.

Batesburg-Leesville has been under a DHEC order for some time to find a long-term, sustainable solution to their freshwater needs. They had given the town a deadline of March 30, 2020 to decide what to do and that date was fast approaching.

With the help of a consultant, they had looked at three options. At one point, Batesburg-Leesville’s leaders had discussed building their own water plant on Lake Murray. That move would have forced them to improve their treatment plant in the town too. This didn’t take long to fall by the wayside simply because of the expense and other issues. That left them with two other solutions.

One of those choices was connecting to Saluda County’s water system and buying water from them. The other option was connecting to the JMWSC system in Lexington County and purchasing their water. Either one of these systems can provide the large and sustainable water supply Batesburg-Leesville needed. Both options were discussed many times before the council voted Monday to go with the JMWSC. The vote, made in executive session because contractual matters were involved, was unanimous among the six council members that attended.

Town Manager Ted Luckadoo said this week that it all came down to what the council felt most comfortable with and what would be best for the town’s citizens in the long-term. Luckadoo thanked the consultants who assisted them before saying he certainly thought the council did the right thing. “We looked at this from a number of different ways,” Luckadoo said. “In the end, the council just felt that the benefits of going with the JMWSC outweighed what Saluda County offered. It all came down to what would be best for Batesburg-Leesville in the long run.”

Luckadoo explained that in terms of the capital outlays to connect to another system, the JMWSC would be a little more expensive upfront. Currently, their closest water source is approximately 11-13 miles away from the town. Saluda County’s waterline is closer, making connecting less expensive if it were done today, Luckadoo explained. The difference was the future he said. He made it clear that the real benefits of going with the JMWSC were in the long-term cost.

The cost per 10,000 gallons of water from the JMWSC was less than Saluda County’s water cost. Over a period of about 10 years, Luckadoo said the council’s decision to buy from the JMWSC would make more sense because the cost of the water was just a better deal. He said after those initial years needed to recoup the additional upfront expenses, Saluda County’s water prices would have been the more expensive solution for years to come.

The town council also felt better about the JMWSC for another reason. Batesburg-Leesville already has a seat on the JMWSC. The council felt this allowed them some opportunity to have a say with what’s happening within that commission. In Saluda County, they wouldn’t have had that representation.

Now, lawyers will go to work fine tuning contracts and agreements regarding the water deal. They’ll have to cement agreements with partner agencies like the town of Ridge Springs that currently buys their water from Batesburg-Leesville. Once that’s done, the engineering firm Hazen & Sawyer will design the project and then construction can begin. “If all goes well, water could begin to flow in about three years,” Luckadoo said,“Remember, the consent order from DHEC is still there, it never goes away,” he explained. “This is something we have to do to serve our growing customer base now and in the future.”

The project’s cost would be approximately $21 million dollars. Although that seems like a great deal of money, Luckadoo says there are multiple ways of paying for the water project. There are grants from many sources and other governmental agencies that could help pay for the new water line. The cost of this project will not fall on Batesburg-Leesville’s water and sewer customers alone.

As Batesburg-Leesville and the area west of the Town of Lexington grows, this water agreement has benefits for all. Although it may take a few years to see those new fire hydrants and bigger businesses that need the sustainable, large quantities of water pop up, no doubt they are coming that way.

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