Irmo, SC - The Town of IRMO, SC has taken swift action after a portion of the rate increase Blue Granite Utilities had requested was approved by the PSC last week. In an email from Mayor Barry Walker, he laid out what had been done and what will be done after the partial increase was approved. In that e-mail he said:
As many of you know, the Town of IRMO has no direct authority or role in deciding and granting rate requests by public utilities. The decision rests fully with the Public Service Commission (PSC). This being the case, the Town took this request seriously and for the first time executed the following steps:
a) Council authorized the Town Attorney to intervene on behalf of the citizens affected.
b) Council recommended and communicated the methods for citizens to dispute the rate increase.
c) Council petition the PSC to hold evening hearings in IRMO. That led to a packed room of citizens empowered to speak directly to the PSC and Blue Granite Water Co. (BG)
I’m happy to report that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has made their ruling regarding the Blue Granite Water Co. (BG) rate hike request. If you remember, in late 2019 BG,requested PSC approval for an increase in its rates and charges for providing sewer service in the Friarsgate subdivision in IRMO. BG requested an increase from $65.08/mo to $101.00/mo fixed. An increase of $35.92 (55.19%) while delivering mediocre service to its customers. Here’s the synopses of the PSC ruling:
1) Finally BG offered to delay the increase in sewer rates until September 1, 2020. Your IRMO Town Council won the argument. The PSC granted an increase of $15.85/mo (24.35%) instead of $35.92/mo (55.19%). The new rate will be $80.93/mo starting in September.
2) The PSC ordered to give a one-time credit of $10.59 to all its sewer customers. This is because BG over collected Federal tax expense accumulated January 1, 2018 to June 28, 2018.
3) The PSC agreed that customers complaints and unresponsive customer service is a problem. The Commission ruled that BG must track these complaints and prepare a quarterly report to the Commission detailing it’s effort to improve the responsiveness and customer satisfaction. The first quarterly report is due on or before July 1, 2020.
4) In the matter of flat rates for sewer service, the Commission agreed that flat rate billing is burdensome on customers with low water usage. Customers where only one or two people are in the household and senior citizens on fixed incomes makes the flat rate of billing unfair. BG has been ordered to investigate the feasibility of converting their billing system to a volumetric design within the same time frame when it files its next rate case.
5) The Commission also ordered BG to obtain the actual monthly water usage data from the City of Columbia. This is what the IRMO Council referred to as “Truth in Billing”. BG will need to provide a status report within 120 days.
6) BG will implement a voluntary roundup program. This program will round up the bills of participating customers to the nearest higher dollar with the difference accumulated in a reserve fund for remittance to the South Carolina Office for Economic Opportunity (SCOEO). The funds would be distributed to the community to assist low income and customers experiencing hardships with their sewer bills.
7) The PSC ruled that since BG contracts the servicing and maintenance of the IRMO sewer system to Clearwater Solutions, Inc., BG needs to submit the service contract to the PSC for approval.
8) The PSC denied the request of BG to pass the legal expense relating to the Town of Lexington condemnation cost. The PSC also denied passing the fixed cost of moving and lease expense to the new offices in Greenville, SC. onto the customers.
This is a significant improvement over the original request from BG. I would like to thank YOU, the citizens of IRMO for standing with the Council. Thank you for coming to the nightly PSC meetings and writing letters to the PSC. I would like to thank my fellow Council members Erik Sickinger, Kelly Busch, Kathy Condom and Bill Danielson for staying on to of the BG and gathering information submission to the PSC. I would further like to thank our Town Attorney, Jake Moore for successfully arguing the case in front of the PSC on behalf of the citizens.
Finally WASH YOUR HANDS, COVER YOUR COUGH, LIMIT YOUR INTERACTIONS with GROUPS LARGER THAN 3 people. The IRMO Council is praying for you and the safety of your families.
STAY HOME & STAY SAFE!