Santee Cooper Street Lights Initiative
(Current as of: August 16th, 2021)
South Carolina’s Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) agrees to audit Santee Cooper outdoor lighting rates!
This is significant progress! In fact, it’s the most significant development to date in our two-year quest for an equitable arrangement with Santee Cooper that would lower monthly equipment lease costs HOAs have been required to pay.
A key reason for this breakthrough has been Rep. Tim McGinnis’ strong advocacy of our petitions, correspondence, and meetings with Santee Cooper officials.
Charles Perry, editor of MyHorryNews & The Carolina Forest Chronicle, regularly attends our CFCA monthly meetings. He’s written an excellent article that succinctly summarizes our current situation. Check it out by clicking on the hyperlink below:
“So, what can I do to help assure a successful outcome for this important matter?” you say.
Glad you asked! Scroll down to Bulletin 3/15/2021 below and check out the six info items for your HOA that would help us build a persuasive case when presenting to ORS. A seventh item would also be helpful: “What style pole & light are installed in your community?” (It makes a difference, as some styles are four times more expensive to lease than the standard ones!)
Don’t have all the info? No problem! Send whatever you can to Shawn.Sines@cf-ca.org
This has been a marathon, but the effort will have been well worthwhile if the result is a significant reduction in monthly lease costs for each of our HOAs’ outdoor lighting. What could your community do with thousands of dollars per year in excess of what you’ve had to budget for lighting lease payments?
Send whatever info you can…and standby for further developments!
~ Bob Sweet
For the Street Lights Committee
Plantation Lakes POA – Carolina Forest
Legislators ask Audit Council to review outdoor lights program
SC Representatives Tim McGinnis and Lee Hewitt formally petitioned the Legislative Audit Council (LAC) to look into concerns raised by Plantation Lakes POA about alleged excessive rates charged to lease their outdoor lights. If the LAC accepts this request, it’s reportedly the first examination by an outside agency of rates set for decades by Santee Cooper without such scrutiny. Click the hyperlink below for details:
List of 557 HOAs!
Via a request from SC House Rep. Tim McGinnis, Santee Cooper recently provided the list of all 557 HOAs/POAs that they service. However, it’s only the community names…not other important info.
Help us turn it into a truly useful document by gathering info for your HOA such as:
1. Number of residential units,
2. Number of street lights/poles
3. Cost/month to lease the lights/poles
4. Cost/month for the outdoor lighting electricity
5. How many years your community’s been leasing outdoor lights from Santee Cooper
6. A point of contact in your community to discuss this further
Don’t have easy access to all this info? No problem. Give us what you can! ☺
Contact CFCA Board member Shawn Sines at Shawn.Sines@cf-ca.org with any helpful information.
Seeking an adjudication process to hear complaints against Santee Cooper
The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) oversees the rates and services provided by the four investor-owned electric utilities in South Carolina. However, as a state-operated utility, Santee Cooper is exempt from this oversight!
We are actively working with HOAs in the Murrells Inlet/Georgetown area to remedy this situation. Click on the hyperlink below to view the legislative language we are suggesting that would give the Office of Regulatory Staff a similar responsibility regarding rate and service complaints.
Stay tuned for further updates!
There was a key takeaway from our October 14th high-level meeting with Santee Cooper officials: The need to reach an understanding with them regarding when we as HOAs/POAs have made sufficient lease payments to cover the principal and interest for the poles, lights, and underground infrastructure. Past that point, we should only have to pay a reasonable amount for maintenance, insurance, and mgt/overhead plus the established rate for energy consumption.
Because Santee Cooper uses a convoluted accounting system and claims that lease costs only cover actual expenses, Plantation Lakes has created a worksheet combining known costs with what are believed to be generous estimates for cost areas not yet precisely known.
Note that under these calculations, Plantation Lakes monthly lease costs would be reduced from $7,700 to $2,277! (Your monthly savings may well be less—Plantation Lakes had the more expensive lights and poles installed.)
NOTE: It was extremely difficult getting original cost data from Santee Cooper, given the multiple orders placed with them over a number of developmental years. However, using Plantation Lakes data as a benchmark, you may be able to derive ballpark estimates by adjusting your figures based on your number of installed poles and lights.
Check out the worksheet (hyperlink below). It may help you approximate the point at which your HOA—if negotiations are successful--may expect to see a substantial lease reduction!
South Carolina Rep. Tim McGinnis (whose District #56 includes much of Carolina Forest) has just drafted proposed legislation to be filed at the outset of next year’s legislative session beginning Jan 2021.
As the bill’s primary sponsor, he’s asking other legislators to join him in this effort. If your HOA is in a different district, McGinnis encourages you to contact your representative, asking him/her to join him in supporting this bill.
Letters from individual constituents are very effective. Also, letters from HOA Boards of Directors to specific Representatives and State Senators will send a powerful message. (Our Plantation Lakes POA Board will be sending such letters.)
If/when passed, this bill will pave the way for achieving our objective: Enabling ownership transfer of community street light systems to the respective HOAs/POAs, thus reducing monthly lighting costs for each HOA by thousands of dollars! (How this is accomplished is explained in documents below.)
Here’s the bill as currently proposed!
Plantation Lakes POA engaged in substantial communication with Santee Cooper (SC) between 2017 and Nov 2019.
An informational meeting, hosted by Plantation Lakes on July 18, 2019, was attended by representatives of 15 HOAs as well as print and broadcast media personnel. Immediate newspaper and TV coverage prompted a letter the next day from Santee Cooper to Plantation Lakes that, in turn, resulted in back-and-forth replies between both parties.
Click on the “Correspondence with Santee Cooper” hyperlink shown immediately below…It contains helpful insights as your HOA plans its strategy to reduce outdoor lighting costs!
These documents are extremely valuable! They contain helpful insights as your HOA plans its strategy to reduce outdoor lighting costs!
This document provides a helpful overview of recent developments! It covers the questions most frequently asked about HOAs being substantially overcharged for their street lights by Santee Cooper without any viable option for getting out of the contract. (Updated 3/11/2020).
This document is a succinct summary of conclusions reached during prior meetings that clarifies the path forward…To seek ownership transfer (a) without additional payment to Santee Cooper and (b) without installation of costly metering devices currently being demanded by Santee Cooper!
1. details the lease costs for various poles and lights installed by SC,
2. lists the equation by which SC computes the monthly energy costs, and
3. serves as the official leasing contract between SC and residential communities once the initial contract period has been satisfied (usually 5-7 years after installation).
1. Outlines specific steps you and your community can take now to prepare for a concerted effort in 2020 to persuade South Carolina’s General Assembly to authorize Santee Cooper (or another utility if/when it purchases Santee Cooper) to transfer ownership of the outdoor lighting system to HOAs/POAs if certain criteria is met.
2. For your info, we have now learned that a General Assembly vote is required by “South Carolina Code Title 58 chapter 31 Section 58-31-30(B)” discussed in Santee Cooper’s letter dated Oct 31, 2019. (To review this document, click on the above hyperlink, “Correspondence with Santee Cooper”).
1. Provides the Plantation Lakes ad hoc committee charter as an example for other HOAs/POAs should they choose to form an ad hoc committee to focus on reducing excessive outdoor lighting costs.
2. Illustrates how to indemnify committee members under the legal protection afforded to the Board of Directors.