Pee Dee town may lose authority over water services

TIMMONSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - One town could lose authority over its water plant after falling more than $150,000 in debt. Past due loan payments in Timmonsville sparked a last-minute visit from state Rural Development directors.

The town attorney says that in the past year, the town has been on-time with its loan payments to Rural Development, but the town is still more than $150,000 in the hole for past-due payments.

Timmonsville town officials say state and regional Rural Development directors made a last-minute request to be added to the town council meeting agenda for Tuesday night, and that has some people living in the area worried.

Town officials say Rural Development does have the authority to put the water plant under receivership, taking control of the town's asset.

People in Timmonsville saw a big jump in their water bills in 2010.

Officials say the increase was needed because people had been paying less than they should have for quite some time.

Now that people in the area are paying off their water bills, the town has been doubling its revenue to more than $100,000 a month, helping the town get out of financial trouble - but all of that may change.

"That's going to be chaotic for the community because if they do come in and take the water plant, that means we gotta pay our bill some kind of way," said Johnny Wright of Timmonsville.

Former councilman Johnny Wright says without the income of the water plant, taxes may go up dramatically to help the town financially.

"I'm not talking about doubled, I'm talking about quadrupled because the town still has outstanding bills we have to pay... If the director comes in tomorrow and says they're putting the water under receivership the town is doomed," said Wright.

Because the town has been current with the payments for the loans, the town attorney says Rural Development directors may work with town officials to refinance the payments for the outstanding loans.

Although town officials say they aren't sure exactly what the state directors will discuss, they say there has been some interest from people outside of the town to purchase the utility.

If the water plant is put under receivership, Rural Development officials can sell the asset as long as it still services the people of the town.

The state Rural Directors will attend the Timmonsville town council meeting Tuesday at 7:30pm.

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