Water bills may go up in City of Darlington

City council meets for budget meeting to discuss fees for water, sewer, and pending federal stormwater mandates

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

City council members and mayor met with city manager, water and sewer director Fred Kinsaul, contractor David Brown of Davis & Brown, and consultant Jannie Latham on Tuesday, May 31st for a nearly 4-hour meeting to discuss the pending budget for the water and sewer fund, public works, water distribution and maintenance.

“The bottom line is we provide clean water for a very low price,” said Kinsaul. “We don’t have the worries that places like Flint Michigan face. But in order for us to continue to provide that, and be eligible for grant money, we have to increase our budget.”

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The city now charges well below neighboring municipalities, in the lowest 24% of rates state-wide.

Proposed increases include a $2 a month and 3% rate increase for residential inside the city limits for the next five years, and $4 a month and 5% rate increase for outside of city limits.
Also included in the budget meeting was a presentation by Jannie Lathan on proposed funding for the anticipated notification for the City of Darlington to comply with S.C. DHEC Stormwater Mandates.

Her recommendations would require another fee of $4/month residential, $5/month commercial customers.

The City of Hartsville began collecting fees for this mandate several years before they ever received a letter that they were a regulated MS 4; they ended up not being classified as such, and the fee is no longer in place. The city, however, did improve downtown flooding considerably with the plans implemented. See box for more details about her proposed recommendations.

There would have to be an ordinance with a first and second reading and a public hearing to implement either increase.

The city has four wells, and a wastewater treatment facility that is contracted for service and operation through licensed and certified engineers at Davis & Brown.

The water and sewer department, through Kinsaul, has trimmed costs considerably by finding a new vendor for chemicals.

New costs would include setting up a back up for documents and meter readings that can detect leaks in a timely manner, saving homeowners in costs.

Another upcoming cost will be to paint the water tower at North Main Street inside and out – per mandate by S.C. DHEC; the other water tower at Pine Street will need to b done in the next year or two.

The general public can assist with keeping rates down by doing general maintenance, such as keeping manhole covers clean from debris, clearing out ditches from large fallen limbs, not putting refuse in those ditches. Inside the home and commercial locations, citizens are encouraged to NOT flush things such as feminine products, paper towels, or flushable wipes.

“They say they are safe to flush, but they collect and require removal,” said Kinsaul.

Dumping things like grease impacts the systems as well, causing them to use degreasers to help unblock clogs.

A new truck will need to be purchased in the near future, too.

Darlington City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget for fiscal year 2016-17 at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 23, at City Hall, 400 Pearl St., prior to a special meeting to pass the second and final reading of the budget.

Author: Duane Childers

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