Fuel Surcharge

Fuel cost surcharge has been a topic of discussion among Board of Public Works’ customers for the past few years. At Monday night’s regular meeting of the Board of Public Works, Bruce Ellis, Manager, said he wanted to try and explain this to their customers.

“Despite what a lot of people think, it has nothing to do with gasoline,” said BPW Manager, Bruce Ellis. “It is the cost of the fuel, such as coal or natural gas, to produce the electricity that is used.”

The Board of Public Works purchases its electricity from Santee Cooper. According to Ellis, in 2003 BPW actually got back from Santee Cooper $5,000. In 2004, Santee Cooper charged the BPW $15,000 for fuel surcharges. To date, BPW has paid $2.5 million worth of fuel cost surcharges to Santee Cooper.

“As long as it was feasible for the Board, we absorbed those charges but when the Board could no longer pay the charges, we had to pass it on to our customers,” Ellis said.

“The fuel surcharge that is on the BPW customer’s bill is determined by the amount of electricity that the customer uses. BPW decided to list the charge separately on the bill and not add it into the rate like other companies did.”

In a recent news release, Santee Cooper said they are anticipating a 5.6 percent rate increase in November 2009 and a 5.3 percent rate increase in November 2010 for commercial customers. Santee Cooper has not had a rate increase since 1996.

Ellis said that Santee Cooper’s contract will be up for renewal soon. The Board will be meeting with them in June to discuss their new rates.

The Board of Public Works will be looking at other companies in possibly providing power to them.

In unrelated business, it was noted that the drought conditions in South Carolina has been upgraded and according to Ellis, the Board has an adequate supply of water, enough to furnish the county if needed.

“If we have another drought, we are prepared,” said Ellis.

In other business:

Commissioner Carl Kilgus was elected Board Chairman by a unanimous vote.

It was reported that expenses were up for the month of March due to training new personnel.

McGregor and Company, LLP of Barnwell was chosen as the new auditor. In the past the audit has been late and this needs to stop. According to Administrator Bruce Watson, the audit needs to be done in a timely manner.

There was a discussion of constructing a new facility at the warehouse for storing asbestos, noting that the plans have to be submitted to DHEC for approval before construction can begin. According to Ellis says there are a lot of laws and regulations in the removal and storage of asbestos.

The employee handbook is up for review and needs to be updated with necessary changes made in order to reflect the new labor laws. Ellis said this is a requirement by the insurance company.

The new billing procedures and changes have to be submitted and approved by the state. Even though the Board has approved the new changes, the state still has to approve them.

For example, according to state law, it is illegal to cut a customer off during extreme temperatures, even if the customer does not pay his bill. There are state guidelines that have to be followed concerning this matter stated Ellis.

The meeting was adjourned and Manager Ellis and the Commissioners then went into an executive session.