Lake City water customer irked that his change is going to charity without his knowledge

Lake City water customer irked that his change is going to charity without his knowledge
A Lake City man is upset that his water bill is rounded up and the change going toward an initiative to help those in need pay utility bills. (Source: WMBF News)
A Lake City man is upset that his water bill is rounded up and the change going toward an initiative to help those in need pay utility bills. (Source: WMBF News)

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - One Lake City man is enraged after finding out a portion of his utility bill is going to a charity, believing he wasn't asked or properly notified beforehand.

It's called the Coins that Care initiative, which is a round-up program with the intent to help people who can't pay their water bills.

Each bill is rounded up to the nearest dollar and goes toward someone else's water, sewer and sanitation bill.

Hoyt Wood said Lake City is typically good at telling people about things like water quality on each bill and other public notifications.

However, in this case, he said the city is charging people without explanation of the new charitable program.

"That's simply wrong and it's not itemized on here. It doesn't explain what it is on the bill, okay. You've got your 98 cents on the bill which is going to work out for most people to about 12 bucks a year and it's simply going to be your water bill every year," Wood said.

Wood doesn't believe the problem is the 98 cents or the charitable part of it.

"The problem is everyone should have been given a chance to opt in or opt out," he said. 'We were not given that option and all of this was put through in a very sneaky way, where they have 100 percent participation just by simply putting through and sending you the bill, okay. That's simply wrong and it's not itemized on here. It doesn't explain what it is on the bill."

Tonya Huell, Lake City's water and sewer administrator, is behind the new program.

"I see every walk of life day-to-day and they just need assistance," she said. "Of course I have a lot of people that are losing their jobs or sick and, again, the city can't provide free water and sewer service but we can try to help out as best as we can."

It was first notified to the public by a written note at the bottom of each bill that read 'Coming soon Coins that Care program.'

Each person can apply for the program and gets $75 dollars twice a year for assistance. The Pee Dee Community Action Partnership will administer the money.

"We introduced it over a year ago, giving everyone enough time to come in and ask questions. We still, even after council approved it, did not put it into place until six months later, still giving everyone a year-and-a-half to come in and ask questions," said Huell.

Wood still disagrees with the way the city notified everyone and feels it was sneaky.

"Let's put it in a stupid little box, tell them about it that way, don't send them a nice notice, which you probably should send a nice notice," he said. "Let's hide it in a memo box with some other impertinent information, okay, and then we'll institute the program and see who complains. If 2 percent of the people complain, well then, it's a success."

"In this case, it's like borrow a penny, give a penny sort of situation that you're helping others," said Huell

The payment is considered a donation individuals can write it off as tax deductible. Hoyt decided to opt out of the program and went to the city's administration building to fill out a work order form.

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