WILLIAMSON- The Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a procedural order setting an evidentiary hearing concerning the investigation and suspension of water rates for the city of Williamson for March 14, 2016 at 10 a.m. in the Williamson Fire Department, Grover Memorial Building.
The investigation and suspension of water rates is a result of a petition circulated throughout the town and submitted to the PSC after a water rate hike was announced in late August.
A public comment and evidentiary hearing was originally set for Jan. 25 2016. The meeting was converted to a public comment hearing after the City of Williamson moved to toll the statutory deadline and the decision due date. The procedural order states, “The City indicated that the City, Staff, Mingo County Public Service District and the Mountain Water District all agreed that additional time was needed to further explore the possibility of settlement and/or evaluate the Staff recommendations. “
The PSC granted the motion to toll the statutory deadline and set the new decision due deadline to May 2, 2016.
The order also establishes a deadline to submit settlement agreements. The order states, “That the parties submit any proposed settlement agreement to the PSC on or before March 9, 2016.”
At the public comment hearings on Jan. 25, the Staff for the PSC presented their recommendations concerning Williamson’s water and sewer rates. Separate hearings were held for water rates and for sewer rates.
Linda Bouvette, Staff Attorney for the PSC, presented the recommended water and sewer rates. Bouvette stated that the Staff recommends a sewer rate decrease of current rates by 14.99 percent. The rates would be in effect for 24 months. After 24 months, a decrease of 2.54 percent of the current rates would take effect and would be in place until the City of Williamson passed a new ordinance.
Bouvette also presented recommended water rates at the public comment hearing. Bouvette explained that Staff recommends an increase of 11.04 percent over current water rates for 24 months. After 24 months, Staff recommends a rate decrease of 2.54 percent less than current rates.
Williamson Mayor, Robert Carlton, explained that the City will request a rate increase at the evidentiary hearing. “The PSC recommendations do not allow enough to cover debt coverage and allow operations to continue. We will request that rates be sufficient enough to cover current debts. We are a ‘break even’ organization,” Carlton stated. “Our situation is unique. There are several issues involved. The Mountain Water District is one issue. We are limited there due to a court issue in Ky. Our engineers are also recommending that we do system upgrades,” Carlton continued.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)