Probe sought into Batesburg-Leesville utility expansion plans

tflach@thestate.comFebruary 27, 2013 

Batesburg-Leesville town attorney Christian Spradley is seeking an independent review of plans to expand water and sewer service.

He wants Lexington County, state and federal officials to look into allegations that the plans are designed to profit some town leaders.

His own review determined those claims are without merit, but an outside probe is necessary to help “these issues be resolved with finality,” he said in a letter asking for the check.

Foes of the projects – including some Town Council members – complain the plans would benefit other town leaders and their friends but offer no specifics.

Councilman Steve Cain welcomed the inquiry, saying supporters of the projects should be held responsible for decisions that he alleges are a misuse of public money.

Cain fought the projects from the start, initially saying the rate hikes on town residents to help pay for expanded utility service are excessive, before alleging improprieties.

Town leaders now are looking at going to Lake Murray on their own as a new source of drinking water, after a partnership with adjoining Saluda County to do that fell apart. A separate joint venture with Saluda County for sewer service also unraveled amid protests from environmental groups.

Town officials obtained federal loans for the projects, which would be repaid partly with utility rate hikes.

Spradley’s push for the inquiry comes with the informal blessing of some town leaders.

“I wholeheartedly support every bit of what he’s doing,” Mayor James Wiszowaty said. “We need to clear the air so we can move forward.”

Spradley’s request for an inquiry went to a group that includes the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, State Law Enforcement Divison and U.S. Attorney’s office.

The request for an outside look comes as town elections approach this fall, with Cain and Wiszowaty both facing re-election.

Spradley reviewed complaints about the projects after being appointed town attorney six months ago.

After finding “no wrongdoing,” he is being accused by project opponents of joining in the alleged improprieties, his letter said.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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