Irmo employees may get bonus

By Al Dozier

Irmo town employees may soon get a pay bonus of $1,000 or more.

That would come from the $4.6 million the town is receiving from the American Rescue Plan, a nationwide distribution of federal funds going to cities and towns throughout the nation designed to help provide recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The bonus for employees who have continued to work while dealing with the pandemic was considered a priority during an Irmo Council work session Tuesday. The exact amount of the bonus is still under discussion. The amount could be raised to $1,100.

Council members also agreed the town should bring broadband internet access to the town’s parks, a plan under consideration for the past few months.

The council will also consider providing grants to local businesses in need of a loan through the Irmo Development Corp. The loans, which could become forgivable under difficult circumstances, would be directed toward small businesses affected by the pandemic.

The council agreed “qualifications” would be needed by applicants seeking the grants.

Infrastructure improvements, such as road paving projects, could also be considered but the town would have to review what expenditures are allowable from the funds.

Irmo Mayor Barry Walker said the money could become available by June 10.

In other action during the work session, the council heard an update on Blue Granite Water Company’s improvements in services to the Irmo area. Blue Granite serves 3,800 customers in the Irmo area. It also provides services to 16 counties in South Carolina.

Blue Granite President Don Denton said the Rawls Creek cleanup was a success as workers and volunteers pulled a lot of debris out of the creek. The water flow in the area has already improved.

A cleaning and rehabilitation project is also under way in the Friarsgate community where a lot of broken pipes were replaced. Work is also under way on a pipe replacement project in the Irmo Drive area.

Denton said Blue Granite has spent $1.5 million in improvements in the first phase of its project to upgrade the system.

Denton was questioned about an ongoing concern about flat rates being assessed on household units rather than on volume of use. A single-person household is being charged the same as a large family despite the big difference in usage.

Denton said he is well aware of that concern, but it’s the same process that has been under way for several years for all of its customers.  To remove the Irmo area from that process would likely be a costly undertaking that would not lower rates.

The council asked Denton to evaluate a plan providing the Irmo area with rates based on usage and provide the anticipated change in costs.

There was no discussion during the work session on the town’s consideration of a “take-over” of Blue Granite services, though that remains an option. Before taking such an action, the council would likely have a professional consultant do a study of the plan and provide the town with an assessment of the effectiveness of such a move.

Meanwhile, town leaders say they will continue to apply pressure on Blue Granite to keep improving services with more reasonable rates.