Another rate increase

  • Friday, June 14, 2013

Mount Pleasant water bills are still the lowest rates in Charleston County and second lowest in the region - even with a rate increase.

And according to Mount Pleasant Waterworks Director Clay Duffie, the utility provides a very good value for the customer’s dollar. The average bill for water in Mount Pleasant is $55.

But that average is expected to increase by about $4 as MPW officials wade through the budget process.

The proposed budget includes a 7.5 percent increase across the board on water, wastewater, facility charges and volumetric charges. Basically all waterworks customers will see a 7.5 percent bill increase starting July 2013. The final approval meeting is scheduled for June 24.

“We are trying to be up front with people in that a 7.5 percent rate increase means the average bill will go up by $4.07,” said Duffie. “But with elimination of the special assessment the net increase is only $1.07.”

The special assessment funded the relocation of all the water and sewer lines to accommodate the Highway 17/Johnnie Dodds Boulevard road improvements.

“I want to remind customers that when we implemented the special assessment we did not raise rates that year.

We did not see an increase to help with operating expenses,” Duffie said.

Put simply, rate increase go to operating expenses not capital improvements.

For example, Duffie said, when SCE&G raises the power bill MPW has to raise their operating costs. In addition the cost to renew and replace aging infrastructure is getting more and more expensive. MPW is also spending $27 million on a rennovated waste water treatment plant at Center Street. Duffie said that $6.5 million is being spent in the Old Village to replace aging infrastructure. “It is essential that we maintain the system up to a high level service which our customers believe we provide them. We have a good customer service rating and we want to keep those customers satisfied,” he said. “It costs more and more every year.”

Duffie also emphasized that there is a declining trend in consumption because plumbing fixtures use less and less water. “When we sell less, we have less to operate with in terms of revenue. Our fixed costs - such as personnnel - can’t just be laid off. We still have to maintain the system and provide customers the service of all functions of the utility whether we sell five percent more or five percent less water,” he said.

“If a water line breaks we still have to fix it even if we are selling water or not.”

Duffie said that reinvesting in infrastructure is on an ongoing basis so there are not huge infrastructure failures or costs to remedy those failures.

He said that most people would say they can’t live without their cell phone but in reality you really couldn’t live with out water. “And your water bill is half the cost of your cell phone bill.

“Our commissioners look at all of our long range projects and our expenses and revenues and they deliberate and really spend a lot of time analyzing our budget to make sure they make a good decision for our customers,” said Duffie. “We have public meetings, we advertise those public meetings and we let folks understand what we have going on. I think everyone realizes that water and waste water infrastructure are vital to our community in regards to providing safe drinking water so when you flush water the pollution won’t negatively effect the water environment that we enjoy in Mount Pleasant.”

By the numbers in Mount Pleasant

• 4 Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plants

• 2 Wastewater Treatment Plants

• 525 Miles Of Water Lines

• 460 Miles Of Wastewater Lines

• Over 3,350 Fire Hydrants

• And 158 Wastewater Pump Stations

• Total Fixed Assets (6/30/12) - $347 Million

• Total Service Addresses: - 35,688

Active Customers

• Water - 31,343

• Irrigation - 2,802

• Total Water - 34,145

• Wastewater - 30,169

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