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County Council, November 8

SCE&G tries hard – but not hard enough for some landholders
Citizens continue to oppose I-526 project
Warwick Jones

Council member Rawl wondered out loud why the Finance Committee had to listen to a presentation from SCE&G. The presentation was for informational purposes only and no vote could be taken on any of the issues raised – Council had no power over the utility. He was right in his conclusion. But it is possible that Council members have some power of persuasion. Even if they do, we are uncertain as to whether they should use it over the issues raised.

The presentation was on the seven mile underground power project that would link the substation at Hamlin Road with that at Isle of Palms (IOP). The project would reduce the vulnerability of the IOP and other areas to a failure of the only substation presently serving them. And from the presentation, it seemed that SCE&G had gone to great lengths and expense to placate land holders along the path of the line. The utility could have chosen to place the line above ground but this would have been unsightly. It would also have required the acquisition of a 100 foot right of way for the line. But by utilizing newly developed drilling technology, the utility could place the line 80 feet underground and reduce the right of way to 25 feet.

The applause was muted. Council members probably knew more than most of the attendees at the meeting. There were a number of residents that felt that the utility could have done a better job in locating the line. And it was their complaints that stirred some Council members to seek the presentation. Council member Darby asked the SCE&G representative to again meet with the land holders to seek a better resolution to which the representative agreed. The representative also noted that the utility had met numerous times with residents and that it had chosen what it believed to be the most reasonable path. One resident of the area affected spoke at the Finance Committee meeting and another at the subsequent Council meeting. Both said that SCE&G had indeed held meetings but it had ignored the requests of the residents.

Predictably, there were a number of citizens who spoke in citizens’ participation period about the I–526 issue. All were opposed to the project and asked the County not to hand over the project to the City of Charleston. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue at its meeting this coming Tuesday, and County Council at its first meeting in December.

As far as we could tell, all of the points made by the citizens have been made before. Not reporting them should not be interpreted as a dismissal. We still have an open mind on the issue. It is just that the issue has been discussed so much in the media that most viewers are familiar with all of the arguments. But it was hard to ignore the plea from one citizen. She trembled and broke down during her short speech imploring a “no build” decision. She and her husband had worked and saved hard to buy their house in Charleston. Now it could be taken for the highway. She feared for her future.

Other items before Council last night were;

  1. Shimano American Financial Incentives - Council agreed to a 20 year Fees in Lieu of Taxes (FILOT) program to support a $5 million expansion project at the company’s plant in North Charleston. Specifically, the new investment would be taxed at a 6% assessment rate over 20 years with the millage set at 269.5, the present rate. Normally machinery is assessed at a 10% rate.

  2. Resolution to increase the number of members on the St. John’s Fire District Commission – Two new positions will be created and will be filled by representatives of Kiawah Island. Considering the importance of these towns on Johns Island and the contribution to tax revenues, the addition was favored by all Council members.

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