Goose Creek residents approve referendum designed to return plant to full capacity

VIDEO: Goose Creek residents approve referendum designed to return plant to full capacity

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCSC) - Unofficial counts show voters in Goose Creek approved a referendum that would allow the city to get into the electric utility business in order to serve a single customer.

Preliminary results show residents voted in favor of the referendum by a count of 1,177 yes votes (69.15 percent) to 525 no votes (30.85 percent).

Those numbers won’t be official until they are certified on Thursday, city officials say.

Voters faced the following question on the ballot:

Shall the City Council of the City of Goose Creek, as the governing body of the City of Goose Creek, South Carolina, be authorized to acquire by initial construction or purchase, and thereafter establish, improve, operate and maintain an electric utility system to furnish electric power?

With the referendum’s approval, Goose Creek would be able to provide power to Century Aluminum, an aluminum smelter facility located in Mt. Holly. The facility has been operating at half-capacity since 2015 when it laid off 300 people while in a dispute with Santee Cooper.

Century Aluminum has been waging a battle with the state-owned utility for years over electric costs. In 2016, company CEO Mike Bless told lawmakers the high electric prices it claimed it paid had hurt business.

The approval means Goose Creek would be able to serve as a channel to the open market for Century Aluminum, a move Goose Creek Mayor Gregory Habib has said he believes is an opportunity to return the Mt. Holly plant to full operations.

Goose Creek would become the 22nd municipality in the state to enter the electric utility business.

The vote does not mean a new utility for residents in the city, who will remain Berkeley Electric customers. However, leaders say the deal would pay off for taxpayers in the form of more an a million dollars in revenue each year.

“Bringing in more than a million dollars in revenue from one application or one project is equivalent to raising taxes every year for six or seven years in a row. We obviously don’t want to raise taxes, so it’s an important move for the city in that regard,” Habib said on Friday.

The money, Habib said, could provide for more police officers, more firemen, new fire departments, and more recreational opportunities.

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