Columbia residents — homeowners and renters, churches and nonprofits, businesses and schools — will pay for the area’s struggling bus system through an inncrease on their power bills
City Council approved the increase Tuesday night with a 5-2 vote after a contentious, two-hour public hearing that included a retired Detroit cop calling council members “enlightened despots” and a retired federal prosecutor asking council members to slap him if he got too excited “because I promised my wife I would behave up here.”
The city charges SCE&G a 3 percent franchise fee for the right to run power lines in the public right of way. SCE&G passes that fee along to its customers. Tuesday night, City Council members increased the fee to 5 percent. The amount of the fee varies by customer, depending on the size of a customer’s bill. A charge of $100, for example, would be assessed a $5 franchise fee.
The increase only applies to people who live or do business within the city limits. The increase will generate an extra $3.6 million a year for City Council. The ordinance requires City Council to give the receipts from the increase in the franchise fee to the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, the governing body of the county’s bus system.
In November, Richland County voters defeated a penny sales tax increase that would have, among other things, given the bus system a permanent funding source. Transit authority officials have said the bus system will run out of money and have to shut down later this year unless local governments could figure out a way to pay for it.