Last week Blake Davis, the Laurens Commission of Public Works Administrative Director, led several fact-finding expeditions to Wright Street.

His “team” netted several residential utility gauges that had been tampered with in the pursuit of free electricity. One apparently blew up in the hands of the culprit. Charges have been filed against alleged perpetrators. Davis brought three of the damaged meters for commissioners to examine during the May meeting on Monday night.

The commission took no formal action but held a lively discussion on Wholesale Power Supply Credits from Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, CPW’s wholesale power supplier. The credits could effectively return $1.8-1.9 million to CPW, and the prevailing view was that the money should be placed in the Rate Stabilization Fund, which was set up to help in the case of large rate increases.

Such an increase is likely in 10 years as a consequence of the Santee Cooper nuclear scandal.

PMPA recommends that its 10 affiliates take such precautionary actions, and General Manager John Young said the other municipalities affiliated with PMPA are expected to do so.

Commissioner Gerald Abercrombie proposed that each CPW customer be sent a $60 rebate, but it died for lack of a second. Jeff Thompson said he thought the customers would be happier with holding their rates down over the long term than a one-time check. Other commissioners brought up certain fairness concerns related to long-term customers receiving the same amount as recent ones. No other action was required since the commission made no change in existing policy. Parker Moore, the chair, noted that the matter could be reconsidered in the future if conditions merit action.

According to Abercrombie, his proposed rebate would have left about $1.6 million in reserve.

In 2035, the Catawba River Nuclear Plant will pay off its debt, and by extension, electricity rates will, or should, diminish.

“Getting to 2035 is the issue,” Moore said.

The commission also considered a request from Bell Federation for the Blind for a $5,000 donation to help defray the cost of expansion in services. Such a donation would take up a considerable chunk of what CPW has left in its funds set aside for charitable donations. Thompson proposed a donation of $1,500, which passed unanimously.

The commission also amended the “Schedule El” for the first time since 1996. “El Rate” could logically be “L Rate” since the “L” stands for “Large” in Large General Service/Industrial Rate. The unanimously approved changes are broad-based, but what made them needed is that CPW has not previously had a customer eligible for the “El Rate.” Such a need will arise with the needs of the coming Muffin Mam and BDS Technologies at Hunter Industrial Park.

Employees recently attended a seminar on preventing harassment in the workplace presented by Shellie Haroski of the Finding Great People organization. A separate course was also conducted regarding the issue from a supervisor’s perspective.

After a meeting with Joey Avery of the county’s Emergency Services and Kimberly Shiverdecker of the State Emergency Management Office, Young communicated to the board the renewed possibility of obtaining a grant for a generator at the CPW sewer plant. A similar grant application – the amount could be $300,000-500,000 – was unsuccessful several years ago.

Morgan Corporation of Duncan successfully bid $326,127 to earn a contract for a screw pump project at the wastewater treatment plant.

A sewer smoking process – in identify in-flow and infiltration issues – was completed. Analysis of the results will be complete soon.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control recently inspected the wastewater treatment plant’s Risk Management Plan. No immediate issues were identified, but Young said the analysis will be completed in a few weeks. Young reported that a two-day Office Regulatory Staff inspection went well.

Davis’s Financial Statement reflected a considerable improvement financial position of the Water Division, which showed a $47,216,63 balance after deficits of $65,295.71 and $110,421.21 at the same point in 2018 and 2017, respectively.