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Dearing mayor says town must be heard on sewer-rate issue

Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley wants the residents of his town of 500 to speak up.

Kelley called a town meeting April 28 on the latest developments in a plan to equalize water and sewer rates across McDuffie County.

"Our side is not being heard," Kelley said, and he encouraged townspeople to write letters to city and county officials and show up at meetings on the plan.

The Thomson City Council voted 3-2 against the proposed rates at its April 25 meeting, where about 80 people showed up to protest the plan.

The McDuffie County Commission had earlier voted 3-2 in favor of the plan,

Kelley noted that under the current rate structure Dearing residents pay a base sewer charge of $23 a month, compared with the city rate of $6 a month.

The proposal, developed by a joint city-county committee, would make the base rate for city and county $6.50, in increase of only 50 cents for city residents.

He explained that Dearing assumed a $500 debt when sewers were installed about 14 years ago. And, he said, Dearing has only about 250 sewer customers, not enough to force rates down.

But he said county officials had made an oral promise several years ago to assume the debt eventually. And he believes it's time to lower Dearing's rate in the interest of fairness.

He also noted that Thomson's sewer system is 50 years old, implying that it will require upgrades in the not-too-distant future, which could require a countywide increase in rates.

Only two residents joined Kelley, the town's four council members and its city clerk at the meeting, despite a flashing message on the sign in front of city hall announcing the meeting. Asked after the meeting how he plans to generate more involvement among town residents in light of such a small turnout, Kelley told The McDuffie Mirror that he will be talking to residents at every opportunity, urging them to become more active.

Web posted on Thursday, May 05, 2011

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