JWC awards $645,000 contract for new well

JENKINSVILLE—A Sumter County plumbing company has been tapped to install a new well for the Jenkinsville Water Company.

The JWC board of directors voted unanimously at its monthly meeting Monday to award the contract to Barwick Plumbing Company LLC.

JWC’s contract with the Pinewood-based firm is $645,446, said Gregrey Ginyard, president of the water company. The new well would be located off S.C. 215.

The vote came following an executive session that lasted about 40 minutes. Bids for the project were unsealed at a meeting that was held May 15.

Four firms submitted bids. It was unclear how Barwick’s bid stacked up against the others.

Monday night’s vote didn’t come without some protest from D. Melton with the Broad River Campground.

A frequent critic of the water company, Melton asked the board why the May 15 bid unsealing wasn’t publicized. During the May meeting,

Ginyard said the May 15 meeting would be public, but he never specified a time and The Voice didn’t receive public notice of the meeting.

Melton also asked the board and staff about a sizeable jump in water usage.

JWC water operator James Green said during a report that water usage climbed to 4.27 million gallons in May, an increase of about 1 million gallons from the previous month.

Green said a recently placed pump at the Clowney Road Well generated the extra water.

When Melton pressed for more details, Ginyard directed Green not to answer.

“Don’t answer that question,” Ginyard said.

Pressed by Melton, Ginyard scolded Melton for asking questions during public input. He said any questions must be submitted in writing prior to the meeting.

“This is not a question-answer session,” Ginyard said.

“Why do people come to the board meeting if they can’t get any answers?” Melton shot back. “Why would a member come to this meeting if they can’t get any information back? Why all the secrecy?”

Melton has a pair of pending lawsuits against the water company. One contests the JWC’s water usage calculations; the other states the JWC routinely violates the state’s Freedom of Information Act by holding secret meetings and refusing to release public records.

The JWC has said in court filings and during recent meetings that it’s not a public body subject to FOIA.

In 2011, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson issued a formal opinion stating the water company is a public body subject to FOIA.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ginyard reported that Mid-County Water Company of Winnsboro approved a rate increase of 24 cents per 1,000 gallons of water. He said it’s the second rate increase this year.

JWC contracts with Mid-County to draw 100,000 gallons a year, but Ginyard said the JWC isn’t using that much.

“I think the reason for [the increase] is we’re not using any Mid-County water,” he said. “We’re not even using 100,000, so I guess that had something to do with the increase, but there’s nothing to do about it but pay.”