Denmark proposes 45% water rate increase

The Denmark City Council voted unanimously to approve on first reading a 45 percent increase in its water and sewer rates at their August 17 meeting. The proposed ordinance will have a public hearing before a second reading is held.

“This is something that will not be welcomed by anyone,” Mayor Gerald E. Wright said in introducing the proposal to council members. “We will secure loans and grants. We don’t have a lot of choices. We will be in an expenditure mode the next two or three years dealing with this water,” Wright told council.

Wright said that the city has been following Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) suggestions that the city “modernize our water system” that he said has been “a costly process”. We’ve examined the rates around us and throughout the state. We are quite low, it’s not something we wanted to do, it was something we were forced to do.”

The Mayor stated that one of the biggest reasons for the proposed rate increase was the difference in the cost of funding the two new wells. He explained that the city has received a grant for approximately $860,000, but the lowest bid to complete the project is estimated to cost $90,000 to $96,000 more that the grant that may also require matching funds.

The city also lost two of its biggest water customers in Coastal Lumber Company and Nibco Inc. It was also noted that Voorhees College, which the city plans to annex into the city limits, was being charged 1 ˝ times the rate and will now be charged city rates. Other reasons cited for the rate increase are the city’s need to meet its current operating expenses, replacement of fire hydrants and valves and well replacements.

Bamberg County Administrator Rose Dobson- Elliott, who was in attendance at the meeting said that the waste water study that was done last year and can be found on the county’s website said that for municipalities to be eligible for certain grants and loans they must show that their water system is able to support itself. Dobson- Elliott explained that for Homeland Security reasons specific locations of water systems and sewer systems are not on the site but the proposals, recommendations and surveys are included on the website.

Also during the meeting:

• City CFO Rusty Munoz told council members that total revenue in excess of expenses in the general fund was $66,380.42 for the period of July 1, through July 31. In the water and sewer fund revenues continue to fall short of expenditures and was a negative $22,615.45 for the same period of time. Munoz reported that all taxes and bills are paid timely as they are received. Police Chief Leroy Grimes reported Officer Brunson started work as a School Resource Officer (SRO) but still needs an office at school.

• Fireman Charles Breland reported that the Denmark Fire Department responded to 10 fire calls during the month, one extraction from a car, one car fire and one false alarm, the department responded to a manpower assistance request from the Bamberg Fire Department, and EMS assistance, two structure fires, one consisting of four chicken houses, and one grass fire. Fireman Breland said that the department had 26 active firefighters and averages about eight people per call.

City Administrator Heyward Robinson recognized Fireman Charles Breland for completing FEMA IS 300 and 400 Classes.