In March, Winnsboro Town Council authorized Town Manager Don Wood to sign a Bulk Water Contract with the City of Columbia to temporally serve the Blythewood area with water. The agreement will allow Columbia to furnish water to Winnsboro water customers in Richland County, due to the drought conditions in Fairfield County. Winnsboro intends to continue acting under its Extreme Drought Proclamation of Feb. 21 until water flows from a new Columbia connection and a maximum 400,000 gallons per day of treated water is available to Winnsboro’s Richland County customers.
But that new water will come at a cost to Winnsboro’s customers.
The Town Council is currently reviewing the 2012-2013 draft budget, which includes a water rate increase of 10 percent for all in-town residential retail customers and a 26 percent increase for all out of town residential retail customers.
The draft budget would also increase monthly rates to wholesale commercial customers, such as Mid-County Water, Ridgeway and business industries, with an in-town increase of 10 percent and an out-of-town increase of 20.6 percent.
“These adjustments are recommended due to the additional costs (water purchase from Columbia-$345,000, diesel fuel costs-$50,000, legal/professional fees-$38,000) generated by the historical drought the Town is currently experiencing,” said an April 23 memo from Wood, Kathy Belton (Town Finance Director) and Lorraine Abell (Town Manager Assistant) to the Mayor and Town Council. “With the adoption of these adjustments the Water Department will generate a profit of 1.82 percent ($49,198) which will be available for capital infrastructure improvements.”
Included in the budget draft is the provision for a 15 percent rate adjustment for all sewer customers. With that rate, the Town expects to generate a profit of 1.02 percent ($12,554), which will also be used for capital infrastructure improvements.
The Winnsboro-Columbia contract states that Winnsboro’s monthly service charges shall be calculated at a base rate of a meter charge of $236.40 plus $2.11 per 100 cubic feet of water for the first six months of this agreement. During the second, third or fourth six-month terms of this agreement, Winnsboro’s monthly service charges shall be calculated at the lowest then current Columbia commercial water rate charged outside of Columbia’s corporate limits, which Columbia City Council may, in its sole and exclusive discretion, change from time to time.
Water System Appraised
Last year, Winnsboro Town Council voted to hire consultant Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP (DHG) to conduct an appraisal on the Town’s water system, which provides water to most of Fairfield County, as well as the Blythewood area of Richland County. That appraisal, dated April 1, was made public April 25 by Wood after a request was made by The Herald Independent.
Based on their analysis, DHG has estimated the fair market value of a 100 percent ownership interest in the Town of Winnsboro Water System on a controlling, non-marketable basis as of Dec. 31, 2011 is $4,500,000. DHG also estimated the Blythewood portion of the system’s market value is $1,125,000.
The Town of Winnsboro Water System is currently under mandated extreme drought ordinance, and Town administrators are looking for relief plans. One option the Town has considered for a permanent water conservation plan is to sell off the Blythewood portion of the water system.