Williston considers raising water/sewer rates

  • Taylor Hearn (center) was recognized by Williston Town Council for his contributions to the Clemson football team. He is a Williston native.

Recognition of Clemson University football player and Williston resident Taylor Hearn led off the Williston Town Council on Monday, May 8.

Hearn graduated from Williston-Elko High School before going to Clemson University in 2014. He was the starting left guard for Clemson’s 2016 National Championship team.

Hearn has had 29 career games and 15 starts at Clemson.

“Taylor has made us proud,” said Mayor Jason Stapleton.

Hearn, accompanied by his parents, was presented with a hand-made plaque and the appreciation of council.

Hearn showed the council his ACC, region championship and national championship rings and posed for pictures with the council.

He thanked the council for the honor and also presented the town with a memento which Mayor Stapleton said would be framed and kept in town hall.

Water and sewer rates

Setting down to business, the council considered an increase in both water and sewer rates.

The council approved first reading of two ordinances to raise water and sewer rates by 10 percent in the town for residential, commercial and industrial users.

The increase is 10 percent overall, not individually, for water and sewer bills.

Williston Town Administrator Kenny Cook noted, “Our current water and sewer rates have not been increased in four years. Meanwhile, our expenses continue to rise due to increases for electricity, chemicals and other factors while our water sales have trended down.”

He said that in the last rate increase the council approved a winter base rate for sewer which “reduced our revenue but helped save each customer on their monthly utility bill.”

The town’s rates are “currently 22 percent lower than towns of similar size throughout South Carolina,” said Cook.

If the ordinances receive second approval in June, the new rates will be effective with the July 1 bills.

Base rates depend on the size of the water meter serving the customer plus a consumption charge per thousands of gallons used. Charges to customers outside the town limit are higher than in-town customers.

The vote was unanimous.

Budget

The council also held first reading of the town’s 2017-18 budget.

Highlights of the budget include a 2 percent raise for employees and “market adjustments to some personnel”, increased water and sewer rates, a 3.3 percent increase in health insurance contribution, building funds “to better cover unexpected and expected maintenance”, and increase in retirement contributions.

The budget reflects an overall increase of approximately $43,750 between the utilities and general fund.

Revenues are projected to be higher with a fee in lieu of franchise fee charged to the utilities fund and a one-time Parks and Recreation Department grant for the Academy Street Park “accounts for most of this increase,” according to Cook. “The fee in lieu of franchise will help offset decreases in property taxes and limited funding sources within the general fund,” noted Cook.

The budget includes a massive cut in the funding for the Barnwell County Drug/Gang Task force from $20,203.50 to $3,200. However, this is being done at the request of Sheriff Ed Carroll as he looks to make the program more affordable for municipalities.

The fire department will receive an increase of $2,000 to fund volunteer firefighters and $6,000 to repair air conditioning in the fire department building.

No significant changes are being made for sanitation and maintenance departments.

The town will use $8,741 to match the $34,965 PARD grant for the recreation department.

The council has also budgeted $5,000 to install a granite marker to honor Citizen of the Year recipients as the Town Fountain.

Backhoe

Approval was also unanimous to approve the lease/purchase of a backhoe.

Administrator Cook said the “funding mechanism of the 1 percent capital sales tax” is expects to be in place before the council’s June meeting “and we want to get ahead of the curve on this.”

Cook said $35,000 will be used from the CST as a down payment for the 420 Caterpiller and the town will pay $11,000 a year for five years with a 4.2 percent interest rate.

He said it will take about 12 weeks to be delivered.

Other business taken by the Williston Town Council included approval to allow Culbert Branch Baptist Church to use the Town Park for their annual “Worship in the Park” event on May 21 beginning at 8:30 a.m.

In his report to council Administrator Cook said a town clean-up originally planned for April 29 has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 20 starting at Williston-Elko High School.

Mayor Stapleton praised Cook and the maintenance crews for their work. “The town looks really good,” said Stapleton.

“We’ve had a busy month starting with the Easter egg hunt. We had a large crowd this year. Thank you to Shannon Mundy and Angie Overton for organizing this. We appreciate the community pulling together,” he said.

Stapleton said the event was followed by the STEM Festival. “We want to thank Steven Brown and DIG. I saw a lot of happy kids out there. We had a really nice day. We also want to thank all the industries who come.”

He reported that the Citizen of the Year banquet held recent “went well.”

Stapleton said he attended a mayors conference that included about 30 mayors. “We got to participate in active shooter simulator. It makes you really think about what your officers have to go through,” he said.

The mayor also said the Williston-Elko classes of 1956, 57 and 58 recently held a reunion. A great group came out. It was a nice day for the Town of Williston.”

He thanked the museum for setting up tours and a concert for the event.