MOUNT PLEASANT -- The pace of the town's road-building program is forcing Waterworks to consider a second rate hike in less than a year, the utility said today.

Unless it adds another $4 to monthly utility bills, Waterworks said it can't afford $5 million to relocate water and sewer lines on U.S. Highway 17, which is being widened to six lanes.

"Our customers have to bear that cost 100 percent," said Clay Duffie, Waterworks general manager.

The utility in January raised basic water and sewer rates 9 percent, which added $4 to the bill of a typical residential customer. It cited the economic downturn and resulting lower revenues because of empty foreclosed homes and nonexistent growth as factors.

Waterworks commissioners will consider whether to raise rates on Monday at a budget hearing. The new fiscal year begins July 1. The rate hike would be rescinded after the utility recovers the $5 million cost of line relocation. If approved, it would be in effect for three years, Duffie said.

"The commissioners are in a difficult position," he said.

Town Deputy Administrator Eric DeMoura said the Waterworks water and sewer lines are in the public right of way. "While we understand the situation that Mount Pleasant Waterworks is facing, we are in no position to assist them with the relocation expenses," DeMoura said.

Charleston County Council recently approved a contract for the largest road project in the county's half-cent transportation tax program -- an $84 million remake of Johnnie Dodds Boulevard and its frontage roads. It is one of four major road-widening road projects planned in the town on U.S. Highway 17. When finished, the road will be six lanes from the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to near Wando High School.

Read more in tomorrow's Post and Courier.