April 8, 2019
By Aaron Ladd
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Standing room only for a town hall meeting Monday at a Myrtle Beach area library to discuss the future of one of South Carolina’s largest energy suppliers.
Monday’s discussion at Chapin Memorial Library in Myrtle Beach was just one of a series of discussions surrounding the potential sale of Santee Cooper, reportedly close to $7.4 billion in debt.
“Our position is simple,” began Frank Knapp, Jr., President & CEO of South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC). “We don’t believe that rate payers should be held responsible for any of that construction debt.”
Knapp’s group led a majority of the discussion with sections for comment from the mostly Santee Cooper supporting crowd.
“Santee Cooper taxpayers are not responsible for [our] debt,” said Tracy Vreeland, spokesperson for the energy-giant. “We are able to recoup that through rates.”
The energy company has already announced a rate increases through the year 2021, however the groups spent Monday debating just how much the taxpayers and customers will shoulder of the companies debts.
Stuck in between the ongoing drama is Julie Brinkley, who says she only sparingly uses her utilities in order to make her monthly payments.
“Well I’m affording it but it shouldn’t be that high, it’s just one person,” Brinkley said in a now vacant meeting room.
Brinkley says her monthly bills are almost always around $70 per month, but her social security only stretches so far.
Many people attending the town hall in favor of protecting the utility company – servicing this community for close to 80 years.
“If they have an out of state company come in they wont have the relationships we’ve built,” said Margaret Small, who retired from Santee Cooper after 30 plus years of service.
“I think it’s important for people to know that we’ve been here for 85 years. We would like to stay here and when you do business with people you know, it’s a lot better situation.”