FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Fayette County residents and elected officials are pushing back against a proposed 24 percent water rate increase. The Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter at the Fayette County Courthouse early next month.

The West Virginia American Water Company asked the Public Service Commission for the rate increase to cover the cost of system improvements and replacement of aging infrastructure. Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender is among those objecting to the hike. He told MetroNews the economic impact would be devastating for residents, businesses, and anyone else who uses water in Fayette County.

“How does a school system pay for this? I cannot imagine what Fayette County’s school system water bill might be. So, what do they cut? They can’t increase their revenue. They’ve got to cut something. Do they cut staff? Do they cut maintenance? Do they eliminate travel? Something has to give,” said Wender.

In August, the Fayette County Commission sent a resolution to the Public Service Commission opposing the rate hike. According to Wender, the median income in Fayette County is $4,000 less than the state average median household income, and the burden of additional water fees would surpass the ability of some residents to meet the cost.

“This says nothing about the fact that on the heels of this rate increase for the water company, that American Electric Power is also asking for a rate increase. So, how much hardship can we put on folks on fixed incomes?” Wender explained.

Wender also said he suspects some of the motivation behind the requested increase has less to do with covering costs, and more to do with practical financial expectations.

“It’s more than just the 24% to the shareholders of West Virginia American Water. I think that that’s a big part of what’s driving all this, is the shareholder demand for a greater return (on investment),” he said.

The rate increase, if enacted, would be permanent. The public hearing will take place on October 4th, beginning at 6 p.m.

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