Palmetto Utilities customers are not happy about a potential rate increase

Palmetto Utilities customers are not happy about a potential rate increase

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Property owners in one part of the Columbia area got some clearer answers on an issue that has many fired up. Residents found out their monthly costs could nearly double for that utility. Palmetto Utilities held several meetings today to explain the situation.

The increase will be a big one for many customers of Palmetto Utilities. The company announced last week that it intends to seek permission from the state to significantly raise rates for sewer service over the coming years.

To many Columbia-area homeowners, it's a hard pill to swallow.

"2018 the increase...2019, 2020 and then even after that there could be another increase," customer Audrey Happ said.

That's the slow climb upward for sewer service rates that Palmetto Utilities wants to see in place over the coming years. A process the company is trying to directly explain to its many customers this week as it tries to get approval from the state public services commission.

If the rate increase is approved, Many customers would wind up paying close to $70 a month for sewer service by the year 2020. Right now the monthly rate for Palmetto Utilities is about $40 a month. To the company, the hike has to happen for many reasons.

"It's an industry issue that the cost of compliance is continuing to grow," Palmetto Utilities CDF Mark Daday said.

Officials say besides stricter standards for sewage treatment is also the strain of having to support more customers. Thousands more will have to come online after Palmetto Utilities merged with Palmetto of Richland County.

About $80 million was put into the Spears Creek Wastewater treatment plant to handle that growth.

"We have done everything possible to make sure we've minimized the cost to do the expansions and we feel like over the long term we're gonna save money, which in turn will save our customers money," customer Andrena Powell-Baker said.

Yet for now, many customers are nowhere near convinced.

As we've reported Palmetto Utilities will have to go through a series of hearings with the PSC before any rate changes can go into effect.

At this point dates for those hearings still have yet to be set. Company officials say if sewer costs go up it would take effect in the spring of 2018.

Palmetto Utilities will be holding other sessions like the one tonight throughout this week. On Wednesday, Sept. 6,  another informational meeting will be held at Lake Carolina Elementary School beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Another meeting will follow on Thursday, Sept. 7 at North Springs Park Community Center beginning at 6 p.m.

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