By Betsy Finklea
LATTA—The Town of Latta voted on Thursday night to move forward with contract negotiations with Grand Strand Water and Sewer to allow the company to manage the town’s water and sewer system.
All councilmembers present voted in favor of the motion except Trudy Drawhorn, who was not present for the meeting. Councilman Jarett Taylor made the motion. Councilmen James Reaves and Edwards Bethea both made the second.
After a little more than an hour executive session to discuss a contractual matter, the council came out into open session.
Fred Richardson of Grand Strand Water and Sewer presented the proposal. He said the proposal was for Grand Strand Water and Sewer to provide full service operational maintenance of the Latta system at a cost of $360,000 per year. They would maintain operational repairs and facilitate and coordinate improvements. They would not do the meter reading or customer service.
If there was a customer complaint, it would go to the Town of Latta who in turn would contact Grand Strand and someone would be dispatched.
Those in attendance had many questions for Richardson and the council.
A. LaFon LeGette, Jr. questioned about the proposal and if a contract had been drawn up. Taylor said no contract had been drawn up, but that there was a proposal (see left). LeGette asked if the town attorney had seen the proposal. Taylor said no because there were no legally binding issue at this point.
Ronald Gardner asked if Grand Strand was leasing the system. Richardson said this was not a lease. It is a contract to manage the system.
Gardner asked if a total buyout was an option.
Councilman Brian Mason said it was a possibility.
Richardson said there was a town program in place to update the system and the possibility of grants to upgrade. He said that he didn’t think it was a good idea to break into that or jeopardize the grants. He said the town will get the grant and upgrade and then they can look at it if they are both satisfied with the current proposed arrangement at that point and time.
O.C. “Corky” Lane, Jr., asked at whose request that this proposal was being made. Taylor said he made the initial call. He said the town has had several issues including DHEC issues. He said the town is limited in staff and its ability to upgrade the equipment. Taylor said the town was having a hard time keeping it at bare minimum, and he felt this was their best chance for Latta.
Jim Ellis asked if there would be sewage pumped to Latta from other areas that Grand Strand Water and Sewer serves. Richardson said that they would be operating and maintaining the town system as you have it.
Another person asked if water quality was going to be addressed. Taylor said they had $7.7 million in grants and were in the process of upgrading water lines on East Rice Street, East Main Street, and East Leitner Street. He said they were also putting up a 300,000 gallon water tank in the Henry Street Park area.
They are also in the process of moving lines off Highway 301 so that it can be repaved.
Richardson said the town does have an iron issue in the water system and that the town has an iron removal system that Grand Strand will be operating. He said that Grand Strand will be taking care of the day to day issues.
Another person asked if there will be another crew working in Latta or if they would hire the present town employees.
Richardson said that have Marion, Mullins, Nichols, and Lake View that they run out of the town of Marion. He said there will not be anyone assigned to Latta, but they would have a presence on a daily basis.
Taylor said they have four water-sewer employees and a director and someone in charge of billing. The director, Lyle Hayes, will be the liaison between the town and Grand Strand. One other employee will be kept to read meters. The other three employees will be absorbed by Grand Strand as their employees. The town will pay Grand Strand $30,000 a month. Last month, Latta water and sewer took in $55,000. The remaining $25,000 would be kept by the town for grants, paying off loans, etc.
Taylor also pointed out that there was no one in Latta with a water license so that is currently being subcontracted out at a cost of $8,000.
Mason said if they sign the contract, it will be a one year contract and they can renew or not. Either party has the ability to back out with six months notice. The contract will be year by year.
LeGette asked what the benefit would be to enter a contract.
Richardson said that he thought Grand Strand would provide higher quality service at a lower cost.
Taylor then discussed what he had been told by the engineer in relation to the grants and the bidding process. Taylor said that he (Taylor) was not happy at the process or the rate it was going. This is $9.3 million plan over an eight year period which was laid out last year about mid-year.
A question was asked about the rates for residents and if they would go up as a result of the contract.
Taylor said the town retains the power to change rates. They plan to do a rate student to look at rates across the board in Latta in comparison with other areas; however, any rate changes will be left up to the Latta Town Council.
Taylor said he thought this was a good move. He said what the town is doing is not working, and they are at the mercy of others. He also said that with the incredible investment in the inland port, industries are going to want to come and Latta has no capacity to take on more sewer. He said he thought this proposal was a blockbuster deal for the citizens of Latta and Dillon County.
After the discussion, the motion to move forward was made and approved.
A copy of the proposal is below on this page.
Outline of Responsibilities between Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority (GSQSA) and Town of Latta for Operations and maintenance of Water and Sewer System.
April 4, 2019
• Costs Associated with Electric Utilities for Water and Wastewater System Components
• Water and Wastewater Chemical/Treatment Cost
• Costs associated with DHEC annual Drinking Water System
• DHEC annual NPDES Permit Fees
• Response to all Water Quality, Quantity, Pressure Related Service Request
• Response to all Wastewater Alarms, Odors, Sewer Back-Ups, and Related Service Requests
• Water and Wastewater DHEC coordination for operations (Water Sanitary Surveys and Wastewater Compliance Evaluation Inspections)
• Water and Sewer Site Maintenance (cutting, spraying, etc.)
• Operations of Assets in Accordance with DHEC or Industry Standards (Excluding Major System Improvements) for following:
• Water System
-Water Wells (Daily checks by certified operator in accordance with DHEC requirements)
-Water Treatment Plant (Daily checks by certified operator in accordance with DHEC requirements)
-Submission of Monthly and Annual Reports for Drinking Water (MORs, Water Quality Reports)
-Wastewater Components of Water Treatment Plant (daily checks by certified operator in accordance with DHEC requirements)
– Collection and analyzation of monthly test for routine sampling for Water System (i.e. MOR/Bacteriological Sampling data)
-Water Distribution System:
* Tanks (Checks, External and Internal Cleaning/Wash-Outs)
* Pumping Facilities (Checks)
* Water Lines, Mains and Services (Maintain Flushing Program, Leak Detection and Repairs, ARV inspections)
* Hydrant Inspections (3 year program in accordance with DHEC requirements)
* System Valve Inspections (5 year program in accordance with DHEC requirements)
* Cross Connection Device Inspections (1 year program in accordance with DHEC requirements)
*General Administration: Water Audit, Groundwater Reports, Maintain System Map, Sample Site Plan, Operating Procedures
* Wastewater Plant (Daily checks by certified operator in accordance with DHEC requirements)
* Collection and analyzation for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tests for routine sampling for Treatment Plant ( i.e. DMR data)
* Submission of monthly and annual reports for NPDES (i.e. DMRs)
* Completion of NPDES Permit Application
* Wastewater Collections System:
-Pump Stations (Checks)
-Gravity Sewer and Service Laterals (Biannual smoke testing, Televising as needed)
– Manholes (sealing in conjunction with smoke testing)
-Forecemains, ARV inspections
-Administration: System Map, SSO Reports, SSO mitigation
Town of Latta Responsibilities:
• Annual operations and maintenance charge of $360,000.00
• Fees associated with water and wastewater enforcement activities
• Any other annual costs for DHEC Environmental/Operating Fees
• Water and Wastewater DHEC coordination for Major System Improvements
• Costs associated with Insurance of Assets
• Costs associated with Depreciation of Assets
• Costs associated with Taxes
• Costs associated with Customer claims, Property Damage
• Costs associated with major System Improvements for Water and Sewer Systems
• Costs associated with Maintenance Expenses/Repairs Greater than $2,500 (to include labor and materials per occurrence)
• Annual Meter Reading Technology Service/Maintenance Costs
• Costs associated with meter reading equipment failures (Meters, Endpoints, Reading Equipment and Appurtenances)
• Costs associated with Special Testing and Professional Studies Associated with Water and Sewer (e.g. Instream Biological Testing, NPDES Permit Renewal Sampling, TIE/TRE, WER Testing)
• Costs associated with Tank Renovations (Internal and External Paintings)
Topics for Discussion:
• Monthly Meter Reading Through Drive-By System
• Response to Meter Related Work Order/Requests (i.e. Transfers, Terminates, Pulls, Reconnects)