Letters to the Editor

'Cooperatives' make free with funds

Re Horry County utility cooperatives:

When you hear the term "cooperatives" as related to Horry County public utilities, you would think, wow, nonprofit entities formed to improve the financial lives of the long-suffering residents and the thousands of retirees on fixed incomes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Because cooperatives have no stockholders to answer to or a public utilities commission to monitor their operations, they are "cash cows" hoarding or wasting members' money on inflated salaries, Taj Mahal-type offices or arcane procedures that never change. By their very nature, they are socialistic. When was the last time Horry Electric, Horry Telephone and Cable, or Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority published the salaries of their officers? Never.

The most egregious of the three utilities is Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority, which takes free water from nature's bounty, strains out some of the mud, then bills it each month to the public at $8.50/9.50 per thousand gallons (customer base water charge plus water and sewer rates). And their customers, numb from being fleeced by this cooperative over the years, never register a complaint. They remember 20 years ago when Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority delivered green, brackish water from deep water wells. The water was slightly less salty than the Atlantic Ocean.

Wake up, people, and contact your elected state officials demanding that all cooperatives go "public" by selling stock with the proceeds going to the state or by creating a state Public Utilities Commission to serve the public by auditing and monitoring their operations. These utility fiefdoms, hotbeds of nepotism and cronyism, have no place in today's South Carolina. But, politics being politics, chances of change are virtually nil. Our politicians are not known to take on the tough issues.

If you are interested in seeing how some of your money is being wasted, visit the Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority's new multimillion-dollar offices on Jackson Bluff Road in East Conway. This facility, lavish inside and out, puts to shame some of the better hotels on Ocean Boulevard. This complex, built to stroke a few egos, stands adjacent to the former red brick offices that, to the naked eye, would appear to have at least 30 years of useful life left. But, as the saying goes, if you've got it, flaunt it.

To you folks who have perfectly functioning septic systems, think carefully before deciding to have public sewers installed. The initial installation cost is $3,100, which could buy 12 years of normal septic system maintenance. And when you sign a contract you are immediately billed sewage rates although the actual system's installation may not occur for a matter of months. If you are now paying $15 per month for water, expect to pay $50 when sewage costs are added. To that, add $15-$20 to your electric bill to cover the operation of a grinder pump, a monstrosity the size of a large refrigerator buried 5 feet deep. So, pay $180 per year for city water or $780 for water and sewage. Choose well, as I did not. Beware of buyer's remorse.

The writer lives in Conway.