Letters to the Editor – August 10, 2016

It’s time for a change

On July, the Fourth, I rose, removed my hat and placed my hand over my heart as the band played the American national anthem.

A mere six days later, I found myself at a gospel music celebration. But before the national anthem was observed, we were given the “talk.” The “talk” is a description of the normal scenario that an African-American citizen (especially young black males) of this country needs to be aware of if stopped by law enforcement.

This is the perfect reflection of the schizophrenic existence of the African-American in America. Our national anthem must come punctuated with an asterisk because our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ is shackled with limits and manacled in prejudice.

A mirror is being held up to America, not only with the current protests, unrest and murders, but the total and complete unawareness of white America of what occurs on the other side of the tracks. Or could it be complete apathy on the part of some Americans as they rush to build walls and close borders.

The Bible says, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” As long as African-Americans teeter-totter as fully entrenched citizens of this nation, America will never be what it should be. Our anthem is tinged by a troubled history and currently darkened by civil unrest and a crisis of our collective conscience.

Clarence Chapman, Jr.
Richmond, VA
The writer is a Darlington native and a graduate of Mayo High School.

Re: “Public hearing se for Darlington’s water rate increase”

After reading the referenced article in the July 27, 2016 issue of the News & Press, I must admit that I was a bit confused regarding the proposed water and sewer rate increase. The article reads and increases of one dollar per month on water and sewer rates for a total of $2.00, or 1.5%, effective October 1, 2016. Which is it, two dollars or 1.5%? Based on the rates for 6,000 gallons of usage, published in the same article, 1.5% increase only totals a $0.65 per month combined increase. There appears to be an obvious discrepancy in the mathematic, but then I was educated prior to the “new math” becoming all the rage.

To take this a step further, where did the city dig up these rates for 6,000 gallons per month usage. I have attached to this letter a copy of a residential water bill for 5,958 gallons of usage, where the recipient was billed $21.04 for water (compared to the published rate of $20.10 for similar usage) and $24.43 for sewer (compared to the published rate of $23.40 for similar usage.) Again, how do we account for this discrepancy? Is there a hidden cost that was not published? Were the published rates a simple error? Are these published rates a part of propaganda campaign to push this increase through? Are our city council members doing their homework, or just taking everything that they are being told by whomever is making the presentation for the increase is fact?

Now, for even more disturbing news. “Proposed increases include a $2.00 per month and 3% rate increase for residential inside of city limits for the next five years…” Based on what I read in the first paragraph of the article, I’m not sure that even the “new math” can compute the actual cost to the consumer, but we’ll give it a try. Based on the published rates: In 2017, your monthly water and sewer rates will increase by $3.43 ($2.00 + 3% or $1.43.) In 2018, your monthly water and sewer rates will increase by $3.53 ($2.00 + 3% or $1.53). And this rate continues to creep up for three more years to a combined rate of $65.01 per month or $21.15 more than the published combined rate. That’s about $258.12 more per year. Remember, I said published rate. The actual billing rate is still in question. Or, is the published current rate in question? I’m sure someone far more intelligent than I will figure out the real numbers.

Oddly enough, I see no mention of the proposed increase for water and sewer raters for commercial customers. Was this omitted from publication, or is this increase to be assessed on the backs of residential customers only? I trust it is the former, but respectfully request clarification in print.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it is inevitable that we pay more for our water, sewer, public works, streets and sanitation, etc. I expect to pay more as costs for labor, material our consumables are rising, and at an alarming rate. But as our population ages, more and more of our residents are living on fixed income, and even younger residents are on less than moderate income based budgets, are we addressing these issues in a wise and timely manner? I was more than a little aggravated at the August 2 public hearing about this issue, to be told that the Water & Sewer Department has already used their budgeted funds for maintenance and repairs, only a month into the fiscal year.

We have seen a great deal of new construction on our water and sewer system over the past few years, but the core of this infrastructure is aged. Some of the water mains are well over 100 years old. Some sewer lines are between 75 and 80 years old. Darlington has experienced some residential growth, and is currently considering even more annexation and expansion. Darlington has experienced some commercial growth, requiring additional construction to feed even businesses outside the city limits. As we increase the size of the water and sewer system, to accommodate additional businesses and homes, more stress is placed upon the older, more fragile components of the system. This infrastructure issue must be addressed with more than burying our heads in the sand and lip service. We must develop a plan to replace the oldest part of these systems or all of these increases will be directed to continue patching of these deteriorating pipes and conduits. How long before we experience a catastrophic failure that leaves at least part of the city without sanitary sewer or clean drinking water for an extended period of time. Simply permitting our council to throw your dollars at this problem by patching does not fix the system. We need to send a mandate to council that a real study to upgrade the system be initiated; research how we can find the money to finance this upgrade; and to develop and implement a real solution to this very tangible issue.

We, as a community, cannot fix this overnight. It will take some time. And council and city employees have an obligation to all taxpaying residents of Darlington to spend your money as if it was there own, which in most cases, at least part of their own money, as fellow residents. Before simply rubber stamping rate increases, council has an obligation to educate themselves about these issues, to pursue solutions in an industrious manner, and to insure transparency in the presentation of the issues facing this city and, the solutions thereof. Our council members elected to run for public office to represent the people of this city, and there is more to this job than simply showing up on the first Tuesday of the month and voting on an issue, without first doing due diligence on the issue, discussing it with their constituents and getting the pulse of the community, pro and con, so as to base their vote on all factors. Some issues are easy. Some, like the root issue creating this rate increase are complicated. I appreciate and respect all of the Mayor and council’s service, and pray that wisdom will augment their judgment in this and all the issues facing our fair city. I also encourage all residents to attend the council meetings and public hearings, to educate themselves on the issues and, to remind council members they are elected to represent our concerns, the collective of taxpayers. Without our tax dollars, and us there is no need for a city council or city employees. Get active! Help our council make wise decisions.

More than concerned,
Charlie Gaskins
Darlington, S.C.

Editor’s Note: A document was provided at the last City Council meeting that states the following: Rates based on 6000 gallons per month:
Darlington (current rate): Water: $20.10 and Sewer: $23.40
$2.00 Rate Increase: Water: $21.10 and Sewer $24.40
Recommended $2.00 rate increase now and .3% per year for the next five years.
Outside City: $4.00 rate increase now and .5% per year for the next five years.
Estimated revenue increase of $75,000

Author: Duane Childers

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