Electric, cable bills could increase with town fees

  • Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summerville Town Council took the first step Tuesday to increase the cable and electric franchise fees to 5 percent from the current 3 percent.
Council voted 5-1, with Councilman Aaron Brown absent and Councilman Bob Jackson against, to raise the fees and earmark the additional money for road projects.
Jackson said he would wait to hear from constituents and from the public at the Sept. 12 public hearing before deciding whether to support the fee increase.
He also said he’d like to see some of the money going toward redevelopment in Oakbrook, instead of being concentrated on one road near the interstate.
Raising the fees should bring in an extra $1.2 million, which Mayor Bill Collins wants to put toward a new road linking the future Sheep Island Interchange at I-26 exit 197 to the town.
During Monday’s budget workshop, Collins said the town would be able to annex a large parcel slated for retail and commercial development and create a “gateway” into town, while also relieving traffic on U.S. 17-A.
The proposed road could eventually link up to the Berlin G. Myers Parkway.
Council debated last year whether to raise the franchise fees but ultimately discarded the idea.
This year, the mayor bolstered his case with a comparison of franchise fees in nearby municipalities. Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Mt. Pleasant and Florence all charge a 5 percent fee on the electricity and cable providers, according to staff research.
North Charleston charges 4 percent on electricity and 5 percent on cable; Orangeburg charges 5 percent on cable but the city owns the electric utility.
Collins also suggested putting a fee on Summerville CPW, which would raise $400,000, but council resisted that idea.
Instead, Collins said he’d approach CPW about earmarking 1 percent of water and sewer bills for capital projects, without passing that charge along to customers.
There are limited options to raise money for projects like this, and help from federal or state sources is unlikely, Collins said.
“I can’t find a better way to do it with less pain,” he said Monday.
The road is too abstract at the moment to get a real estimate of cost, but he said $10 million to $15 million is likely.
Tuesday, Jackson said he worried about what would happen to the extra percentage once the Sheep Island road is paid for. Taxes, once imposed, rarely disappear, he said.
If the fee remains, he said he wants to see the Oakbrook area get some of the money.
North Charleston is doing nice things along Dorchester Road, and if Summerville doesn’t act, then Oakbrook will be stuck with strip malls and tattoo parlors while North Charleston gets the O’Brion’s and Harris Teeters, he said.

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