Lamar passes 12-percent water rate hike

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Lamar Town Council held their regular monthly meeting July 11 – the first meeting since the town included a 12-percent increase in water and sewer rates for the 2016/17 fiscal year budget.

During budget deliberations last month, council member Mike Lloyd said he knew the town needed to pass an increase, but he could not – and did not – support such a large bump.
“I’m still against it. Voted against it. It’s in the minutes,” said Lloyd.

Prior to the increase, Lamar charged flat sewer rates of $12.35 (inside) and $24.70 (outside) and water rates of $8.23 for 1,000 gallons (residential inside) and $14.81 for 1,000 gallons (residential outside). Apartment water rates are currently $14.81 for 1,000 gallons.

At council’s June 13 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Thomas explained that since Lamar fell so far behind state standards for water and sewer rates (with no rate hikes between 1989 and 2008), the town has approved increases nearly every year since and still has a lot of ground to make up before Lamar can qualify for grant money to make necessary system upgrades.

Lamar’s water system troubles, including the closing of two wells due to traces of radium, caused the town to cease pumping water locally and purchase all residential and commercial water from the Darlington County Water and Sewer Authority. This changeover has resulted in large monthly bills, inflated every time a leak goes undetected, and the town has little choice but to share that cost burden with municipal water customers.

Also at this meeting, Janie Howell of the Downtown Pride Committee (a citizen group that conducts volunteer clean-up efforts and urges residents to maintain their properties) asked for more responsiveness and support from town officials.

Howell noted that letters asking property owners (many of whom reside out of town) to cut grass, clean up, and better maintain their premises are regularly drafted by the Committee, but per their agreement with Lamar the letters are mailed from the police department. These requests, if not answered, can result in the town taking action to effect a clean up, and that cost can be transferred back to the owner via a property lien.

Howell said that these notification are not being mailed out in a timely fashion and she asked council to please help speed the process along.

“I made a list in March and another list in April. None of them were mailed,” said Howell. “On June 20th I made a third list of people who need to clean. That list, I am told, got mailed today.”

Howell questioned whether this laxity reflected a lack of commitment, asking if the town wanted Downtown Pride to continue with their work.

“If you don’t want us to do it, all you have to do is tell me and we’ll just stop,” said Howell.

Mayor Randy Reynolds praised the committee’s work and urged them to keep up their efforts.

Howell also noted that the Darlington County Council on Aging has finally upgraded Lamar’s aged transport van, used to drive seniors to the Darlington center and other activities, and a brand-new van is due for purchase in the near future.

Author: Duane Childers

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