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Spiking costs cause for increased base fees in CPW’s tentative budget; no rise in usage rates

Laurens, South Carolina – The recent spike in natural gas prices is

among the many reasons that Laurens Commission of Public Works customers will see an increase in monthly base utility fees starting in January.

The CPW’s fiscal year budget runs from January to December, and commissioners always get a rundown on the tentative new budget in November. Commissioners will vote on the final budget next month, but they learned Monday evening last week that the current increases in supply costs and wholesale prices are having an impact on every utility, but especially natural gas.

“The price of everything we use has gone up significantly over the last 3 months, and the price of natural gas has gone up 400 % since June of 2021,” said General Manager John Young. “Pipe, wire, meters, basically every material and supply item we use has gone up significantly. We have absorbed these wholesale increases in natural gas and these other increases up to now and we are continually figuring everything we can to mitigate it, but it’s not enough to keep services going without an increase.”

The basic facility charge is the flat fee which pays for the fixed costs and the regular maintenance which is ongoing for each of the utility divisions, Young said.

The new base monthly fee increases suggested in the 2022 budget include 40 cents for sewer, from $8.95 to $9.35 per month ; 50 cents for water, from $11.50 to $12 per month; $1.25 for the electricity base charge, from $12.50 to $13.75 per month, and $2 for the natu- ral gas, from $10 to $12 per month.

“So for the average CPW customer that uses all four services, their basic monthly costs will go up $4.15 a month,” Young said, adding that this is the first time CPW has increased the base monthly natural gas fee since January 2016.

Utility usage rates will not increase at all, however, and CPW electric rates remain lower than the state average, Young said. Its natural gas rates are less than half of the state average.

Unfortunately the natural gas wholesale costs will likely remain high due to the reduction of supply and production in the United States and the increased demand in Europe and Asia, where natural gas costs are significantly higher than they are here.

CPW is continually working to conserve natural gas by replacing steel gas lines, and participation in a purchase agreement with the supplier has saved the utility about $71,000 this past year. All these savings mean fewer costs are passed on to customers, Young said.

In other business, commissioners passed a resolution to authorize Young to execute a temporary six month contract extension with Laurens County Water and Sewer for the Lake Rabon water it purchases from LCWSC.

The extension is needed because the previous 40-year contract for water sales was expiring, and LCWSC has not yet completed details of the new contract.

Story first published page 1 in the Wednesday, Nov. 10 issue of The Advertiser.

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