Town hears franchise fee discontent
Summerville Town Council was taken to task Wednesday for raising the franchise fee, but the reproach was unlikely to reverse the decision.
Heyward Hutson, a former state representative and current president of the Summerville Preservation Society, and Lucy Anne Cathcart used the public comment time to express their displeasure at council’s action last month increasing the electric, gas and cable franchise fee to 5 percent from the existing 3 percent.
The town intends to put the additional revenue toward a new road leading from the planned Exit 197 from I-26.
Those fees impinge on basic services that involve heating and cooking, Cathcart said.
Right now the country is trying not to slip into another recession, she said, and she doesn’t understand how the fee will improve the town’s situation.
Hutson said most people don’t understand what they’re paying for. Also, he said, the town benefits from utility rate increases.
“Every time SCE&G increases rates, the town benefits. You get an increase every time they do. … But now you’re not satisfied with that,” he said.
He said he’s concerned with all the needs and wants expressed by various county leaders, like the school district’s bond referendum and the county’s parks and new jail.
“I think you made a big mistake. I think you did an injustice to us,” he said.
He, too, wanted to know how the town would benefit.
Councilman Aaron Brown, who voted against the increase, took the opportunity to reiterate his position.
“Taxes are a creepy crawly thing. This particular tax, if it were finite I would probably go along with it,” he said.
He agreed with Hutson’s point that the town gets extra money every time utilities raise rates.
Councilman Bill McIntosh, who also voted against the increase, said he opposed the particular fee but not its intended use.
The Sheep Island Road extension has been in the town’s plans for several years, he said. It will relieve congestion on North Main Street and it will provide another entry to Summerville from the interstate, he said.
The state is committed to building Exit 197, but current plans are for the road from the exit to head in one direction – away from Summerville, he said.
The franchise fee is imposed throughout the town limits, regardless of county. Though the bulk of Summerville is in Dorchester County, it also crosses into Charleston and Berkeley counties.
The fee doesn’t apply to telephone service, Mayor Bill Collins said.