Irmo ponders Blue Granite takeover

By Al Dozier

At a work session Tuesday the Irmo Town Council continued discussions on taking over Blue Granite Water services in the Irmo area.

Representatives from the city of Columbia’s Water Department joined the discussion Tuesday and advised the council that they saw no problem with the town assuming the role, and would provide the town with any technical assistance needed. Blue Granite utilizes Columbia’s services for various supply and maintenance needs.

The town is considering taking over the operation of the system because of a history of problems with Blue Granite services and customer complaints about the high costs.

There would be a major cost to the town to purchase the system from Blue Granite. The amount of that cost has not been determined.

While the majority of council members appear to be in favor of the move, the council is giving careful consideration to all of the tasks the town will be faced with in such a move. Council members are considering having a consultant perform a feasibility study of the undertaking and provide the town with its findings. That study is expected to cost around $35,000.

If the town took over the operations, some council members say service fees could be reduced through negotiations with the city of Columbia.

But Councilwoman Kathy Condom said such a huge undertaking could come with dire consequences. She has questioned the town’s ability to operate the system.

The council did not settle on a course of action at Tuesday’s work session but is expected to continue deliberations.

The council also continued a discussion on a skate park that has been proposed for the town in a recently acquired 9-acre site in the Friarsgate area.

Mayor Barry Walker Sr. noted that “a very sharp team of people” are supporting the project. He anticipated that support would provide a lot of resources and funding for the park

It would require a lot of fund-raising and grants to pay for the project, which is estimated to cost around $250,000. But a steering committee will be in place to help coordinate that effort with help from various community groups, local and state organizations.

The town would be required to have insurance coverage for the park to cover claims for any accidents that might occur. While sponsors of the plan say few accidents occur at skate parks, Town Attorney Jake Moore said safety should be a concern for such an activity.

“I have seen people hurt on skateboards a number of times,” he said.

The council agreed to do some further research on the project and see if there is any kind of accident history at other skate parks.

The council also agreed to place an item on the next council agenda that would provide law enforcement with the authority to inspect guest registries at local hotels. Irmo Police Chief Courtney Dennis said it would provide his office with a convenient way to check for “fugitives” who may be in the area.

The council was advised that the town has received a request from an area business to set up a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site in the Irmo area. That location has not been revealed.