Darlington residents argue against water-sewer hikes

About 20 Darlington residents — all face-masked, socially distanced and temperature-checked — attended a public hearing Thursday night on the city’s plans for fee increases in its new budget.

The hearing was held at Harmon Baldwin Gym, and it was the first chance residents had gotten to comment to council in person about the planned increases.

Resident Rose Pruitt told council that the planned water/sewer increase “would leave many of us unable to afford the one thing that is necessary for all life on Earth, and that is water.”

“This during a deadly pandemic that requires us all to wash our hands and sanitize our surroundings,” Pruitt added. She said the rate increase would be unfair because of the number of Darlington residents living below the poverty line.

“Our aging infrastructure is on the verge of collapsing,” Pruitt said. “The (street) cave-ins will continue, the pipes will break and leak, and the rate increases will accelerate until the citizens of Darlington reach a point where all of us are unable to pay our water bills. It’s time to consider a different plan.” One possibility, she said, is a regional water/sewer system.

Another speaker, Ernestine Lyde, said: “It took years for (the water/sewer problems) to get like this. It ain’t going to clean up just that fast. It’s not going to happen. … But y’all are putting it on us that now we have to clean this up (immediately)? That’s not fair. That’s not fair. … You’ve got to figure out a better way for everybody.”

“At a time like this, it’s wrong,” another speaker told council. “ … The previous mayor didn’t get anything done. But you’ve got a mayor now with less than six months in service, is already going to raise your water rates, way up there. … Do not put this on our back.”

“We don’t want to raise your rates, but we’ve got to,” said Mayor Curtis Boyd at one point. “We’ve got to get out of this hole, to the point that we can fix our town.”

“There’s not a single person up here that’s not fighting to try to make our town better,” Boyd said, indicating the other City Council members.

One speaker, Ernest Boston, told council: “If you fix this problem, this year, are you going to be back and say, ‘Guess what? We’ve got another problem we’ve got to fix.’ … Twenty years ago, I stood before the City Council and said the same thing.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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