September 2009 Update for Midland Valley Monthly Paper

Since my last column in this paper last month, a lot has happened in our district during the month of August. The purpose of this column is to keep you informed about what is going on at your State House and around our district.

As to the Avondale Water System, Rep. Roland Smith, Senator Massey and I have been extremely busy all of the month of August on two fronts. First, here is the latest on the transfer of the system from Avondale to Valley Public Service Authority. After many meetings and many long hours of negotiation, Avondale and VPSA are both working on what we hope and pray will be the final contract to solidify the transfer. We have been fortunate to obtain commitments for both Federal Stimulus and Federal Grant funding to help pay for many of the necessary improvements for the water system. These funds are contingent on the system being transferred from Avondale to an eligible entity like VPSA before certain deadlines. We are working hard with Avondale, VPSA’s board, staff, engineers, and attorneys to meet those deadlines.

Second, here is the latest on the July bills and the water rate hike. Customers in Graniteville and Vaucluse received the July bills with the newly approved rate schedule on July 31. Many folks saw their bills go up as much as 700%. On August 3, we asked Avondale to bill July at the old rate and to start billing at the new rate as of August 1 since no one knew of the approved rate hike until July 31. They said no. On August 3 and 4, we requested that the Public Service Commission (PSC) address the rate hike as to the lack of notice and the amount of the increase in view of the area’s economic conditions. On August 5, the PSC suspended the rate hike and directed Avondale to work with the legislative delegation to reach a resolution. Avondale rejected every proposal that we gave them and did not offer any compromise of its own. On August 12, the PSC lifted the suspension and reinstituted the rate hike.

Because the PSC’s August 12 action meant that the July bills would be due on August 15 and it was clear that no customers knew of the rate hike being approved and going into effect until the July bills were received on July 31, we filed in Court for a Temporary Restraining Order and both Injunctive and Declaratory relief. The Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on August 13. On August 19, we argued the Injunctive Relief Motion in Court. On August 24, the Court issued the Temporary Injunction stating that Avondale cannot charge the new rate for service before August 1 due to a lack of notice to the customers after the PSC approved the new rate schedule on June 18. Avondale appealed that decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court. We will continue to fight on this issue until we get a resolution in favor of the people or we lose at the South Carolina Supreme Court.

What does all of this Court action mean for folks on the system as to the July bills? As of now, the July bills are not due at the new rate. Avondale can charge the new rate schedule as of August 1. If a customer paid the higher rate for service provided before August 1, then Avondale may owe that customer a credit. However, this issue will probably not be resolved until the South Carolina Supreme Court rules because if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Avondale, then the July bills will have to be paid at the new rate. We have asked Avondale repeatedly to charge the new rate as of August 1 and to charge the residential customers the old rate from June 26 to July 31. They refuse to do so.

As to the rate hike, the PSC set a public hearing on the current rate hike for October 6 at 10:30 a.m. in Columbia. We have requested an additional night hearing before then in Graniteville. No date has been set as of the time of this article. After the October 6 hearing, we hope that the rate will be adjusted so that any necessary rate hike under Avondale’s ownership will be phased in over a period of time. On May 26, the legislative delegation asked the PSC to be aware that many folks on the system could not afford a 700% increase all at one time. Unfortunately, the PSC did not heed those words and we now see the problems that arise when such a rate hike is imposed on folks with no notice that the rate hike was approved and going into effect. It is called “rate shock” and the customers on the Avondale system now know what “rate shock” is.

Finally, here is the latest as to Governor Sanford. Our state has real problems for which we need a Governor who can be totally focused and who has the respect of his constituents; the business community; and others around the nation. Governor Sanford has none of these at this time and I do not see him regaining that during the last 16 months of his term. Thus, my position is clear: He should resign quickly for the best interests of the State, his children, and his marriage.

As to possible impeachment of the Governor, I am on the Judiciary Committee and will have to vote on that if impeachment articles are filed. It is a very serious matter. In the history of the United States, there have only been 9 governors impeached in over 200 years of governing all the states. No governor has been impeached in the history of South Carolina. The State Ethics Commission is investigating the Governor. The House Speaker has talked with most of the House members and the House will quickly act after the Ethics Commission report is finished.

Please know that I am always available to you and your family should you ever need assistance. I will do my best to listen to you; to help with your constituent concerns; and to be responsive to your requests. I can be reached by telephone (649-0000 or 215-3631); email (; regular mail (P.O. Box 651, Aiken, SC 29802); or just pull me aside when you see me.

If you would like for me to speak to your church or other civic group about pending legislation or other concerns to you, please let me know. Please see my website – – for updates about what is going on at the State House and in our district.

Thank you for the privilege and the opportunity to represent you. I am determined to work on your behalf to make our State Government more efficient; effective; and accountable.

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