CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia American Water Company is willing to compromise on raising its rates.
The company announced Monday, during an evidentiary hearing in front of the state Public Service Commission, it has been in talks with the PSC staff and the state consumer advocate division on a plan that reduces the 19.7-percent increase WVAWC originally requested.
WVAW was seeking a rate hike totaling $24 million a year, a move that would increase the average water bill to $47 a month. Company officials said they need to pay off $85 million worth of system improvements the made since 2009.
The PSC staff, consumer advocates, Utility Workers of America and Steel of West Virginia challenged the request.
On Monday, WVAWC attorney Phil Melick said the company is close to a deal with some of the challengers.
“The parties agree and recommend to the commission that the company will see increased water revenues on an annual basis of $8.1 million,” Melick said.
The company has also agreed to lower, by nearly half, the amount it was seeking for an increase in sewer revenue rates.
The last major concession is one that would last at least 18 months.
“The company has agreed, for purposes of this stipulation, not to file another general water or waste water rate increase before the first of January 2015,” explained Melick to the PSC.
That appeared to be enough to satisfy the PSC staff and consumer advocate division, but not the unions.
Kim Bonnette, a WVAWC employee in the Huntington district, testified in front of the PSC that the company is not living up to its previous promises to improve the system and shouldn’t be asking for more money.
“Customers aren’t being served. (The company) is not efficient, not productive,” Bonnette said.
WVAWC, the PSC staff and consumer advocate could sign off on the agreement by Tuesday morning. However, the commissioners have the ability to reject the proposal. The PSC has until Oct. 11 to rule on the request.