HICKS COLUMN: Summerville leaders aren't playing
If you feel the ground shaking in Summerville next week, don't assume it's another earthquake.
It will just be folks jumping up and down because their taxes are about to go up.
As Bo Petersen reported Tuesday, Summerville Town Council is planning to raise franchise fees on local utilities. And, almost assuredly, the electric, gas and cable people will make sure that those costs are “passed on to the consumer.”
Because, well, they aren't going to pay for it.
Raising the franchise fee from 3 percent to 5 percent will bring in about $1.2 million a year, which the town will use exclusively for road improvements. But as much as folks like road projects — after they're finished — expect a few to show up at the next council meeting to complain.
“I'm sure this is not going to be popular with everybody,” says Mayor Bill Collins. “If they have another way for us to raise $1.2 million, I'd like to hear it.”
So would a lot of people.
The road to inertia
Anyone who drives into Summerville, particularly from the interstate, knows there is a problem.
That little stretch of U.S. Highway 17A could give Mount Pleasant a run for its money any time of the day.
“I remember when they put all those lanes on 17A,” Collins says. “I thought we'd never fill 'em up.”
Yeah well, look at it now. You will have plenty of time, because once you're on the road, you're there for a while.
But that's the price of progress, and Summerville is prospering by most stretches of the imagination.
Now the state is about to put in another Interstate 26 interchange at Sheep Island Road, which will dump more cars into town. But do you think the state is going to pay for the extra lanes the town will need to accommodate the traffic from that new exit?
No, it's got to spend all its money on 526.
So town officials have figured out that they must act now. If they wait for someone to come along and throw money at them, it will be too late. You may be able to slow growth, but you can't stop it completely.
Summerville is already in gridlock. The next step is inertia.
This fee hike works out to $2 for every $100 you spend on utilities.
Most residents are probably looking at $5 or $6 a month.
“The way I look at it, I'd pay $6 a month to be able to get across Summerville,” Collins says.
That's exactly how everyone should look at this. It may be a break-even, if you figure to save more than 20 cents a day on gas burned while sitting in traffic.
Summerville needs roads. And no matter what the folks on the radio say, government can't pay for everything by cutting waste. Sometimes it takes cash.
Trouble is, reality doesn't matter much to some folks these days. And politicians often just pander to that crowd rather than make the tough decisions that sometimes go along with actually governing.
So give Summerville officials props for knowing the difference.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.