Santee Cooper will review proposals for lowering the street light costs of homeowners associations in Horry and Georgetown counties, but it’s unclear if the state-run utility will accept any of the HOAs’ ideas.
For three hours Wednesday, utility officials met with leaders from area HOAs to discuss lighting costs and the communities’ concerns.
“Much work still lies ahead,” said Bob Sweet, who lives in Plantation Lakes in Carolina Forest. “At our request, Santee Cooper agreed to provide additional information on several important matters and to meet with us again in the near future.”
The HOAs have been frustrated with the cost of their street lights, which they pay for through lease agreements with Santee Cooper. For example, Plantation Lakes pays more than $8,500 per month for their 220 lights and power, and they argue that they’ve paid for the infrastructure multiple times over.
Some HOA leaders discussed the possibility of purchasing the lights from Santee Cooper last year, but the utility told them that wasn’t possible without action from the General Assembly.
However, the utility recently changed its stance, saying Santee Cooper leaders had reviewed the matter further and now believe such a sale is possible. That led to Wednesday’s meeting.
“Our main priority remains: To obtain a more equitable arrangement between communities and Santee Cooper, either through a substantial reduction in lease payments or an ownership transfer of the lights,” Sweet said in an email. “We are cautiously optimistic that this is obtainable.”
Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said the utility plans to meet again with the HOAs in about four weeks. Prior to the next meeting, Gore said Santee Cooper officials will do an “initial vetting” of the HOAs’ proposals.
Like Sweet, she said Wednesday’s discussion was productive. She said the utility explained how lighting costs are allocated and compared Santee Cooper’s lighting programs with those of other utilities. As for potential solutions, she said they discussed replacing aging lights with less expensive ones. Santee Cooper also agreed to explore the possibility of reducing the lighting costs for older neighborhoods that have paid for infrastructure for years.
“It was a good discussion,” she said. “We learned a lot. They indicated, I think, that they were walking away with some information that’s new to them as well. We look forward to meeting again and continuing the discussion.”