Board of Public Works to raise rates
Written by Jerry E. Halmon   

Bamberg Board of Public Works Commissioners approved a flat rate transfer of 5.5 percent or what would amount to approximately $321,000 in cash from its utility revenues to the city of Bamberg next year at their June 21, meeting. The arrangement between the City and BPW comes with the understanding that if economic conditions change, the utility company had the right to review the deal.

The cash transfer amounts to about a $95,000 increase from the $226,000 the BPW gave the city of Bamberg last year.

In others words, “we know what we said, but we don’t have the markup to cover that,” BPW General Manager Will Martin said in explaining the details of how the funds transfer agreement with the city of Bamberg could change if there is a serious economic downturn. BPW Chairman Dr. F. Marion Dwight asked if the transfer to the City of Bamberg would present “a burden” on the BPW’s ready reserve/cash, noting the BPW’s rates would now go “from the lowest in the state, to among the lowest in the state.”

Martin replied that the BPW had looked at the money transfer as far as what needed to be done in relationship to their planned rate adjustments in the city and unincorporated areas. “Exactly, we’ll go to about average” for the state municipal utilities,” Martin said, adding that after all was said and done the increase in rates would amount to about one percent.

In explaining how the amount of 5.5 percent was arrived at as a transfer amount, Martin explained that franchise fees for cable is around five percent and the .5 percent takes into account the split salary employees and BPW portion of City Hall. “It clears up a lot of stuff,” City of Bamberg Clerk/Treasurer Bruce Watson said of the agreement between BPW and the city of Bamberg.

Also in matters related to finances, Manager Martin noted that the 2012-13 budget had not been prepared at this time, but included in the proposed budget that will be voted on at next month’s meeting is a 3.5 percent increase in utility bills that customers will receive the first of August. It was noted that the proposed rate increase wouldn’t be the same for all areas of service and would amount to an approximately 1.6 percent overall rate increase.

Also included in the proposed budget is a three percent Cost of Living Adjustment increase for BPW employees, which was approved by Commissioners at Thursday night’s meeting.

Also at Thursday night’s meeting; BPW Commissioners heard a rate presentation from employees of Santee Cooper in which they were informed that the utility company that services the City of Bamberg and Georgetown, S.C. would be recommending a series of two base rate increases. The first rate increase would come on or after December 1, 2012 and the second increase would come on December 1, 2013.

It was stated that in 2012 the rates to municipal customers like the city of Bamberg would increase two percent and in 2013 the rates would increase five percent, resulting in a 3.5 percent overall increase per year.

William Robinson, Director of Pricing and Customer Billing with Santee Cooper said that without the proposed rate increase Santee Cooper would be facing a $17 million shortfall in 2013 and a $48 million shortfall in 2017.

Also in Thursday night’s meeting it was noted that the BPW was able to acquire three trucks from Texas at a total cost of $168,000.