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A South Carolina water district has rescinded its offer to negotiate a long-term management agreement for Polk County’s public water system.

COLUMBUS — A proposed long-term transfer of water-system management from Polk County to a South Carolina district is no longer on the table, after a consultant advised officials in South Carolina that the deal wouldn’t be to their advantage.

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In a letter dated Thursday, Oct. 8, the Inman-Campobello Water District in upstate South Carolina informed Polk County that the district will no longer pursue the plan. Under a controversial proposal that has been under negotiation for almost a year, a majority of Polk’s commissioners were considering transferring management and maintenance of the system to ICWD for decades, instead of a current short-term management contract.

The full text of the letter can be read below.

In the letter, from ICWD General Manager Jeff Walker to Polk County Manager Marche Pittman, Walker wrote that “ICWD rescinds our offer to pool our water resource or future water resources with the county. In short, the ICWD does not need to pursue the matter further.”

According to Walker’s letter, ICWD made the decision after receiving the conclusions of a consulting firm, Black & Veatch, regarding the proposal.

The firm, Walker said, shared ICWD’s concern that drafts of the proposed contract were too favorable to Polk County. Opponents of the plan in Polk have asserted the opposite: that the county was on the verge of agreeing to a bad deal for its citizens.

Walker noted that that ICWD, which has managed Polk’s water system since 2009, will “continue to serve the customers in Polk County in the same manner we have,” and that “we will not raise rates or fees above what we charge other customers simply because our current agreement allows for it.” Under the current contract, ICWD will manage Polk’s system for another seven years.

Walker asserted that several theories about ICWD’s motives were unfounded.

“Silly proclamations that the ICWD was somehow part of a scheme concerning Duke Energy’s transmission line project, nuclear power, bottled water, and similar fiction-fueled ideas, have had no bearing on the ICWD’s decision not to pursue an agreement with Polk County,” he wrote. “Instead, it is the apparent distance between our two entities on what is equitable that will prevent this from moving forward.”

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ICWD letter to Polk County manager, Oct. 8, 2015 (PDF)
ICWD letter to Polk County manager, Oct. 8, 2015 (Text)

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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