By Stan Welch
Now that the annual budget battle is over and the Town of West Pelzer has decided to issue a tax anticipation note (TAN) to ease cash flow problems, West Pelzer Town Council will take on the question of a proposed deal with Greenville Water system to ensure the town’s access to a viable water supply well into the future.
The proposal came from The Greenville Water Company several months ago and a similar proposal has been made to Pelzer. The purpose of the deal is to allow Greenville Water to purchase greater capacity in a commodity that is shrinking in availability even as the demand for it is growing faster than ever.
Representatives of Greenville Water System first presented the deal in November of last year, but current Council members Jimmy Jeanes and Johnny Rogers had not been sworn in to the Council yet. When the proposal was repeated to the full Council in May of this year, Jeanes and Rogers balked at approving the deal, saying they hadn’t had time to study the terms.
At that same time, budget deliberations as well as the issue of a TAN came up, and took center stage. Now that the budget is in place and the TAN is in the works, town clerk Paula Payton is trying to schedule a workshop with GW representatives and all the members of the Council.
“We’re having the usual trouble in getting everyone’s schedule worked out, but we are making progress” said Payton. “This is an important issue for the town, and it needs to be settled, one way or the other, so we will get a time worked out fairly soon.”
Greenville Water (GW) currently owns a total capacity of 242 million gallons of water a day that it can draw from Lake Keowee, the Table Rock aquifer and the Saluda Aquifer. With the growth in the Upstate area and the increased demand for water, GW is looking to increase their allocation, and they are asking their customers to help.
West Pelzer has been asked to purchase a daily capacity of 150,000 gallons per day(GPD), a number that the town has attained only on occasion. Average daily use is closer to 90,000 GPD. The difference in the amounts will almost certainly be reduced as future growth in the area increases demand. Also, under the proposed terms of the deal, West Pelzer can lease all or part of its capacity to a third party.
The term of the contract, if approved, will be forty years, with two thirty year extensions which can be exercised by both parties. West Pelzer, according to GW representative Dennis Porter, would pay a one time buy in fee of $2.54 per gallon, or approximately $381,000 for the projected 150,000 GPD.
That fee would be financed by GW over a ten year period, employing its AAA bond rating to acquire a very favorable interest rate on the town’s behalf.
Based on a 3.5% interest rate, the town would be billed at a monthly total cost of approximately $3800. That would include a meter charge, an operations and maintenance allowance, and a fixed depreciation to cover the costs associated with ongoing repairs and replacements to the system.
That amount is comparable to what the town currently pays for its water. After the buy in is paid off, the town’s water costs will be essentially halved each month.