FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Florence City Council voted on Monday for a roundup program that could help those who are behind on their water bills.

The program would round up city and county water bills to the nearest dollar.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the program, with only Mayor Teresa Myers-Ervin voting against it.

Generated money would go towards helping disadvantaged customers, like veterans and low-income families.

If the program passes second reading, residents will have six months to opt out.

Myers-Ervin said she agreed with its purpose, but said it should not automatically be applied to bills.

Councilman Chaquez McCall, who helped spearhead the program, said though the roundup would be automatically applied, residents still have a six-month period to opt out and can opt out at any point after.

“It’s only up to $12 a year. It’s not mandatory that you do it,” he said. “Other municipalities and other utilities have had this program successfully ran and we want to bring this here to Florence because we want to help those who are most vulnerable in our community.”

Myers-Ervin wasn’t the only one against the program — Debra Runion, a resident, was as well. She said that instead, water rates should just be lowered for everyone.

Runion also claimed that Florence has the highest water rates among nearby cities, except Scranton.

Councilman Bryan Braddock said the increase in water rates aims to support economic growth in Florence that’s not seen by other cities.

McCall said the program is a solution for vulnerable residents who may have been negatively impacted by the recent water increase.

“While we’re growing the city of Florence, it’s important that we make sure the most vulnerable communities have a voice here,” he said. “And we’re trying to provide things to make sure they’re taken care of as well.”

The program will go into effect in May if it passes second reading.

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Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.