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Illegal Transfers Stop, But Columbia’s Water And Sewer Nightmare Continues

IS THERE A SILVER LINING TO ANY OF THIS? Last October this website published an update on the deplorable condition of the city of Columbia, S.C.’s water and sewer system.  Prior to that, in March of 2014, we ran a separate story on the general incompetence prevailing in the Palmetto State’s…

IS THERE A SILVER LINING TO ANY OF THIS?

Last October this website published an update on the deplorable condition of the city of Columbia, S.C.’s water and sewer system.  Prior to that, in March of 2014, we ran a separate story on the general incompetence prevailing in the Palmetto State’s capital city.

Beyond that, there’s our ongoing coverage of the city’s corrupt leadership …

Sad, huh?

We left Columbia’s city limits nearly two years ago and haven’t looked back.  The place is simply too corrupt to survive in the long term.  Not to mention too violent.  And too business unfriendly (unless you work for the government).

This month, though, there is some good news to report … at least on the surface.  For the first time in nearly two decades, city leaders are planning to stop raiding the water and sewer budget to pay for … um, other things.  Over the past sixteen years, as much as $100 million has been diverted from this fund.  Just last spring, Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin took $4 million from it – reportedly part of his effort to lure a minor league basketball team to the city.

What a joke …

While this money has been raided for “economic development,” the city’s water and sewer system has fallen into disrepair.  A little over two years ago, city leaders had to pay $1.5 million on order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cover fines and costs related to sewage spills.  Two years before that, the EPA threatened to take over Columbia’s wastewater management operations due to chronic neglect.

City officials claim full compliance with the EPA will cost $750 million …

Benjamin finally agreed to stop raiding the fund this year (effective June 30) after pressure was applied by city council members Moe Baddourah and Leona Plaugh.  But let’s not kid ourselves … this move was made because the mayor no longer has the support he once did on the city council.

It was also made because last fall, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled these transfers were illegal.

“Simply put, the statutes do not allow these revenues to be treated as a slush fund,” the court ruled.

Pretty blunt language, huh?  Indeed.

In assessing this situation, we can’t help but be reminded of the ongoing investigation the “penny tax” – a $1.2 billion tax hike “approved” by voters via a rigged election in Richland County in 2012.  In that case, too, local government leaders are finally being held accountable for lying to the public about how their money was to be spent.

Obviously it’s terrible that the city of Columbia’s water and sewer system has become such a debacle (we routinely receive reports of discolored water flowing from city faucets).  It’s also terrible that the roads and bridges in and around the capital city remain in such deplorable condition … while the money that was supposed to fix them goes to connected insiders and their pet projects.

Things never should have been permitted to fall apart like this …

But there could be a silver lining to the collapse: For the first time in a long time, people are beginning to see what’s really happening with their tax money – which is prompting them to insist that their leaders start spending it the way they are supposed to.

Hopefully this dynamic will make future thefts more difficult to pull off …

***

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8 comments

erneba February 29, 2016 at 11:05 am

“Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin took $4 million from it – reportedly part of his effort to lure a minor league basketball team to the city.”
Given that Benjamin has diverted all these funds out of the money for the sewer system, may be we should just show up at his place when you have to take a crap.

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I need Mo' money, Mo' money February 29, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Little Detroit run by the typical black mentality.

Don’t change the oil (sewer system) in your car, instead buy a $5000 set of rims for it.(baseball stadium)

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G.O.B. February 29, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Somebody should look into Palmetto Utilities, Inc. permit application to dump 6 million gallons of waste water into Spears Creek in NE Richland County.

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Little Dutch Boy February 29, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Somebody should look into why the Columbia Canal was not maintained properly and then failed. A few 10 thousands not spent on this part of the water system and now 10s of millions in repair bills.

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Columbia: Famously Brown February 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm

So long as the sewage runs downstream, why pay to fix the sewer system? Too bad the water system is as equally fucked up. It’s harder to live without that. We need a Mayor, not a Token.

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Thomas March 1, 2016 at 7:00 am

Look no further than Bob Coble. Mayor Bob invented this theft. Then after 20 years of Krispy Cremes and fried onion rings, the tax payer got hit with his $150,000.00 hospitalization bill. You can’t curse the water in Columbia without Coble’s name.

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Karma Is A Bitch! March 1, 2016 at 7:26 am

Fitting that Coble Plaza overlooks the Wreck of the Columbia Canal. Coble rhymes with Gobble. Great legacy Mayor Dough Boy! Take a trolley!

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Little Dutch Boy March 1, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Amazing that Columbia is looking for vast amounts of federal taxpayer’s money to fix the canal dike but no one is the least bit interested in determining why the canal failed in the first place or in the canal operator’s starring role in that failure by negligence and incompetence both. Not even FITS is interested. Nor the city council. Nor some regular watchdogs. Nor a local state representative. Nor FEMA. We’ll see about the IG, though. Isn’t it fraud to try to get disaster money when your own insurance and maybe your consultant’s insurance should be ponying up big bucks?

Where is a professional forensic engineering “post mortum”? Where is all the evidence?

http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article63442137.html

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