Beaufort City Council should spread the financial burden for buried power lines on Boundary Street.
Instead of 160 power customers splitting the cost, it should be spread among all 15,000 customers citywide.
That is the only fair way to do it.
Burying power lines is part of a major city project that is about to reshape the look and feel of one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. Boundary Street will be remade from Ribaut Road to the Robert Smalls Parkway.
The citywide option is only fair because the Boundary Street project is a city dream, approved in 2006. It is supposed to benefit everyone, not just a few people nearby.
So badly did Beaufort want the lines buried, it filed suit when SCE&G resisted. That led to an agreement for the lines to be buried, with the city paying $3.5 million for a conduit for buried utilities and customers footing the $2.9 million cost to SCE&G. To raise the $2.9 million, the city is considering a 7 percent hike to electric bills for the next 10 years for 160 customers on or near that portion of Boundary Street; or a 2 percent increase citywide for about seven years.
By pooling money in this fashion, similar progress is being made on Hilton Head Island. In 2004, the Town of Hilton Head Island and Palmetto Electric Cooperative embarked on a $35 million project to bury power lines islandwide. Cooperative members on the island pay a 3-percent fee with their monthly electric bill. So far, more than 1,500 poles, 675 overhead transformers and 109 miles of power lines have been removed.
Beaufort also has worked this way for years. Lines along Port Republic Street were buried in conjunction with a 1999 streetscape project, and more recently, wires were moved underground as part of a Bladen Street beautification plan. Customers already pay a 5 percent fee to help SCE&G pay for such "nonstandard services."
Underground power lines have long been the norm for new development.
It is done as much to help recover from storms as it is for aesthetic purposes.
Long-term plans for governments throughout the county should include more commitments to buried power lines, with costs spread fairly.