RW to increase water rates .58 cents per 1,000 gal

Town to Spend Up to $10K for Forensic Review of Financials

RIDGEWAY – Ridgeway Town Council voted unanimously at its June 9 meeting – the first of two readings – to raise the Town’s water rates by .581 cents per 1,000 gallons for all classes of water customers. 

“Winnsboro has raised the rates for our water,” Mayor Heath Cookendorfer announced. “In the past, we have just accepted the increases and passed them on in the same amount to our customers,” Cookendorfer said.  “This increase will be effective with the July billing.”

A letter from the Town of Winnsboro, dated June 6, 2022, cited Winnsboro’s intent to recommend to Winnsboro Town Council an increase of the whole sale water rate to $6.338 per 1,000 gallons. 

That would increase Ridgeway’s current rate of $5.757 per 1,000 gallons by four percent or $0.581 cents per 1,000 gallons.

All classes of customers, both residential and commercial, inside and outside of city limits, will see that same increase on the minimum amount of water used. Also, each 1,000 gallons over the first 1,000 will see a $.581 increase. 

Sewer rates, Cookendorfer said, which are a percentage of the water used, will increase accordingly. 

Forensic Review of Financials

In executive session, council discussed a potential hire for the Town Clerk position. 

That position was vacated recently when Town Clerk Vivian Case resigned after serving almost 19 years under three different Ridgeway mayors.

While Case submitted a resignation letter dated April 19, 2022, effective April 28, 2022, she told The Voice that she was given a letter by Mayor Heath Cookendorfer two days later, on April 21, 2022, stating that she was to vacate the office immediately.

A copy of the letter to Case from the Ridgeway Town Council stated:

“We have received and accepted your resignation sent on April 19, 2022. We will pay your full salary through Thursday, April 28, 2022. The majority of council has decided to part ways, effective Thursday, April 21, 2022.”

However, there is no record of council having voted on the matter in a public meeting as is required by the state’s Freedom of Information Act Sec. 30-4-70 which lists what can be discussed in executive session but makes it clear that no actions are to be taken in executive session except to adjourn or to return to public session.

“No action may be taken in executive session except to (a) adjourn or (b) return to public session. The members of a public body may not commit the public body to a course of action by a polling of members in executive session,” according to the law.

Case’s resignation letter, a copy of which was given to the Voice by Cookendorfer, stated that she was resigning due to “working environment even after a formal complaint was filed.”

The second item for executive session discussion was a contractual matter regarding the hiring of a certified public accountant (CPA).

Council voted unanimously, with no discussion, to hire CPA Tyler Deese of Deese and Company in Columbia to do a forensic review of the Town’s financials at a cost not to exceed $10,000. 

Asked following the meeting why the Town was ordering a forensic review of the town’s books, Cookendorfer said there were no problems, but that he had been told it was standard to have a forensic review of the financials when a long time employee leaves after having been in charge of the Town’s financials.

Case told The Voice that she was never the sole authority over the financials, that mayor and council approved all financial transactions while she worked for the Town.

Also, following the meeting, Cookendorfer told The Voice that council did not decide on a candidate for the town clerk position and would be readvertising for it.

Town Joining Water/Sewer Authority

Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the Town of Ridgeway to join the Fairfield Joint Water and Sewer System.

“This will give us two seats on the Board,” Cookendorfer said.

Council also voted unanimously to send a letter of interest for the county in its efforts to build a sewer lift station off Hwy 34 and south of the I-77 megasite. This will be at no cost to Ridgeway,” Cookendorfer said.

 First Budget Vote

First reading of the ordinance for the town’s budget for FY 2022-23 was unanimously approved. The general fund budget is $267,860 and the water and sewer fund budget is $474,874.

A public hearing for the budget was initially scheduled for June 28, but has been rescheduled to July 14 to allow a 15-day state-mandated period between the publication of the notice for public hearing and the date of the public hearing.

Comp Plan Survey Results

Planning Committee Chairman, Cal Harrison, introduced a remote presentation by Blake Sanders with Studio Main, the company hired to develop a comprehensive plan for Ridgeway.  Sanders reported on a survey that was sent to the Town’s 415 water customer to determine how residents feel about the town’s current and future situation.

Sanders said he held meetings with 47 of those people divided into seven groups and received 22 online survey responses.  He said the residents’ top concerns were the trucks coming through the town, the need to preserve Ridgeway’s history and its small-town charm. 

The survey will remain open though the end of July. 

However, Sanders cautioned council that they were the ones who would have to decide on priority investments for the next 10 years as related to the comprehensive plan for Ridgeway, citing public utilities, infrastructure and rights of way as issues to be considered. 

Areas of interest by the Mayor and Council included considering upgrading to electronic water meter reading, running natural gas lines to Ridgeway, utilizing the teacherage as a possible location for the Ridgeway Museum and senior activities, adding public restrooms to the Ridgeway Park, upgrading sidewalks and adding additional streetlights. 

Scenic Byways Approval

Harrison announced that the SC State Scenic Byways Committee approved Ridgeway as the starting site for the SR 21 route. 

“I think this can be a real game changer for Ridgeway,” Harrison said.

Comments

  1. Buck says

    I think article is wrong on the amount of the increase. If my math is right it’s a 10% increase not 4% as written. Correct me if I am wrong. Written or quoted as follows. “A letter from the Town of Winnsboro, dated June 6, 2022, cited Winnsboro’s intent to recommend to Winnsboro Town Council an increase of the whole sale water rate to $6.338 per 1,000 gallons. That would increase Ridgeway’s current rate of $5.757 per 1,000 gallons by four percent or $0.581 cents per 1,000 gallons”.
    Isn’t 10% of $5.757 equal .575 cents NOT 4% as written. A 10% hike on both water and sewer is a big increase. Someone trying to make it sound smaller? Correction if wrong? Thanks

Speak Your Mind

*