Residents wanting to slow their push for a county water and sewer takeover may now need to pick up the pace.
Carolina Water Service and three other utilities are petitioning the state to merge under the Carolina Water name. All are part of Illinois-based Utilities Inc. The merger would combine the remaining Utilities Inc. operations in South Carolina after it sold the former Tega Cay Water Service to the city of Tega Cay.
That decision comes as a petition circulates asking residents to help rid Lake Wylie of Carolina Water Service.
Organizers of the petition movement kept quiet initially, as Lake Wylie residents presented a separate issue to York County Council, asking for stricter rules for residential construction near the lake.
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The petition asks the council to negotiate a purchase of Carolina Water, as Tega Cay did with Tega Cay Water Service amid similar complaints from residents there.
Councilman Bruce Henderson encouraged residents who support the petition to sign and demand a response from York County.
“We are now getting into the position where that could possibly be something that happens,” Henderson said.
Resident Don Long said timing of any sale of the company could be key. If the utilities merge before York County negotiating a deal, he said, an opportunity could be lost.
“This is going to make it more difficult to get them out of here,” Long said.
Long also said he foresees rate increases following the merger.
According to the motion filed with the state Public Service Commission, the intent of the merger is to increase administrative and regulatory efficiency while cutting down on the number of administrative rate cases. The “stabilization of customer rates” is another reason given.
Rates would remain intact following the merger, up to any point where the combined Carolina Water Service petitions for a new rate scale.
Carolina Water Service serves nine counties in South Carolina, including York County. United Utilities Cos. serves five counties and Utilities Services of South Carolina serves seven, including York County. Southland Utilities serves only Lexington County.
The utilities made a motion with the Public Service Commission to waive a hearing on the request and applied for “expedited consideration.” That motion states there will be “no effect on customers’ rates and services” due to the merger.