MOUNT PLEASANT — Water and sewer utilities provide crucial public services but often are taken for granted, unless controversies erupt as several have this year for Mount Pleasant Waterworks.
The utility faces two major lawsuits over billing practices, one involving commercial accounts and one involving residential accounts, and it also has faced controversy over its requirement that property owners annex into the town of Mount Pleasant if they want sewer service, which could prompt more litigation.
The residential water billing issues follow the utility's $15 million installation of new "smart" water meters that transmit data without the need for in-person meter readings. Many residents have complained about unusual or very high water bills, which the utility has blamed on residential water leaks and excessive lawn watering.
As those issues play out, voters on Nov. 5 will choose two MPW commissioners who will help set the utility's path going forward for the next six years.
There are four candidates competing for two seats. They are:
Rick M. Crosby, 66, owns Crosby Insurance and has been a member of the MPW commission since 1998 and chairman since 2013. Mayor Will Haynie, who also sits on the commission, is supporting Crosby's bid for reelection.
"I remain passionate about providing clean, safe drinking water and protecting our environment," Crosby said.
Julian "Hoppy" Hopkins, 62, is a former golf course superintendent and part-time local fishing guide. He's a graduate of St. Andrews High School who is seeking public office for the first time, with support from some Save Shem Creek officers and supporters of Haynie.
Hopkins said he's running for the position "to help assure Mount Pleasant residents continue to have safe and reliable water services for years to come, while working to provide a well-managed and adequately funded utility."
John W. Matthews, 81, is the retired owner of an insulation contracting company and former congressional candidate who held multiple appointive offices, including deputy commissioner of consumer affairs on Long Island, N.Y. He moved six years ago to Mount Pleasant, after Superstorm Sandy destroyed his house in New York.
Matthews was active in the Democratic Party in New York and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1978, but more recently became "a very early and vocal supporter of Donald Trump for President." He said concerns about the South Carolina allowing Google to withdraw huge amounts of water from an aquifer Mount Pleasant uses for drinking water prompted him to run for commissioner.
Linda G. Page, 60, is an auctioneer who was Mount Pleasant's mayor from 2013 to 2017 and earlier a Town Council member. As mayor, Page had a seat at the MPW commission.
She said the state's decision to allow Google's aquifer withdrawals, while restricting that for Mount Pleasant Waterworks, is one reason she decided to run. The ongoing issues with leaking septic tanks in the Shem Creek area, and sewer connections in unincorporated areas, was another, Page said.