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Questions still swirling over water for LFD

Posted: October 10, 2010 2:59 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Issues over the the Lugoff-Elgin Water Authority (L-EWA) giving the Lugoff Fire Department (LFD free water haven’t gotten any clearer. The main concern, brought up a month ago, is whether the L-EWA has been breaking state law by doing so.

Questions during Thursday’s L-EWA Board of Directors meeting ranged from whether an agreement forged last month -- which is still pending approval by the Lugoff Fire Board of Commissioners (LFBC) -- is void to whether one L-EWA board member was compromising the agreement by dealing directly with LFD Chief Dennis Ray.

The only action officially taken Thursday was a unanimous vote to have Chairman Vince Halter write and send a letter to the LFBC’s chairman, Ken Truesdale. The letter will state that, despite last month’s understanding that the authority would place a 3/4-inch line at the Lugoff station -- in order to begin gauging the station’s water use -- circumstances changed when the authority discovered a 1-inch line had already been placed at the station at some point. Given that finding, L-EWA General Manager Mike Hancock gave his staff the go-ahead to install a new 1-inch line rather than the 3/4-inch line.

Hancock said he believes a 3/4-inch line wouldn’t have provided a good quality of water pressure at the station. Anticipating that his organization would have to go back and replace the 3/4-inch line with a 1-inch line, Hancock decided to install a 1-inch line now.

 But L-EWA board member Chuck Everett said the agreement between the two entities was to install a 3/4-inch line, and that’s what needed to be done. He questioned whether the agreement made last month still stood since it was discovered there was actually a line there in the first place.

L-EWA Attorney Jay Bender said the initial agreement could hold up because it was made given the information available at the time.

 Hancock agreed to go back to the station and install a 3/4-inch line per the agreement.

 Still, despite the second-guessing, the understanding last month -- that the authority will install a 3/4-inch line to begin measuring water use, and then begin charging a regular rate in 2011 -- is still in place assuming the LFBC gives it the nod. Currently, the authority is still charging a minimum residential usage rate, which led to the question of whether it was giving the fire department free water.

 A more heated point of contention Thursday came when Director Chip McCaa insisted the authority should, in essence, do the fire department a “favor” by offering a reduced rate. McCaa suggested this because, he said, the fire department has “maintained” fire hydrants in its district -- painting them and testing them. McCaa said he’d asked Ray to determine how much money the fire department put in the L-EWA system.

Hancock said the authority had purchased all the supplies to maintain the hydrants.

He then rubuked McCaa for going directly to the LFD

 “I take offense that you’ve been going to the fire department, to the chief, and talking with him behind the board’s back,” said Hancock. “You are not authorized as a spokesman for this board, and you are not in the Lugoff Fire District, either!”

This charge segued to a discussion on the board’s policy manual, which states that problems should be directed through either Halter or Hancock. Halter said any concerns should be taken to Hancock initially, as he’s in charge of day-to-day operations.

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