State Attorney General Says Water Company Rate Increase Request Excessive; Hearing Held At Hamilton County Courthouse

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Consumer Advocate with the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office says Tennessee American Water Company's rate increase is far more than is necessary.

The consumer office has pre-filed testimony "of numerous experts supporting the need for no more than a $2.8 million rate increase for Chattanooga area residents based on information available at the time of filing." The requested rate hike of $10.6 million is the sixth requested in the past nine years.

Members of the Tennessee Regulatory Agency held a  hearing at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Signal Mountain Mayor Bill Lusk was among those speaking at the hearing, noting there is a $300,000 expense in pumping water to the top of the mountain. His town and Walden have intervened along with Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Manufacturers Association.

Mayor Ron Littlefield was present at the hearing, but did not speak. City Attorney Mike McMahan said the city will make its presentation at a later hearing. The TRA must make a decision by December.

Businessman Jim Folkner rapped the rate increase, saying the water company request "should be denied in its entirety."

He said, "This is a monopoly. They come here from somewhere else, use our water for free, and take as much of our money home as they can."

He said Tennessee American "is not a good corporate citizen." He said the firm is refusing to any longer include sewer charges on its water bills, causing local governments sizable new expenses.

Rep. JoAnne Favors took no position, but Rep. Richard Floyd said the increase was not justified.

TAWC has about 74,500 customers in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. It also has customers in Cleveland and Bradley County.

TAWC released the following statement: "Ongoing investments to renew and replace water treatment facilities, pumps and pipelines are one of the primary drivers for the rate request. This filing covers approximately $25 million in local water infrastructure investments that the water company has either made or plans to make during the next 18 months. 

"These investments are critical to what we do every day in delivering high-quality and reliable water service to our customers at an exceptional value -- a cost that remains less than a half-penny per gallon." 

The Attorney General’s Office typically represents consumers’ interests in matters involving telecommunications, energy, sewer, and water rate-making and regulation issues that are presented to the TRA for review, it was stated.

“My office is concerned that the Chattanooga area residents will have higher water rates than other major Tennessee cities if the TRA approves this latest hike TAWC has proposed,” Attorney General Bob Cooper said. “We will urge the TRA to reject this proposed rate increase as disproportionate in relation to the company’s ability to make a fair profit.”

A separate hearing on the merits of the case is scheduled for Oct. 15 and is expected to last most of the week at a location to be determined later.

Over the past nine years, the TRA granted rate increases to the TWAC totaling 32.7 percent for consumers. The last rate increase resulted in new rates effective April 2010. The attorney general has intervened in each of the five previous cases as have the city of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Manufacturers Association.

For more information on this case, please see filings at the TRA website athttp://www.state.tn.us/tra/dockets/1200049.htm


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AIRKS, JESSICA  711 WOODVALE AVE CHATTANOOGA, 37411  Age at Arrest: 28 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County Booked for Previous Charges or Other Reason(s) --- ANDERSON, SHEA AMBER  4103 DAYTON BLVD APTC37 CHATTANOOGA, 37415  Age at Arrest: 24 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Man Arrested For Aggravated Robbery On 5th Ave.

Toriq Quinn Johnson, Jr. was arrested for aggravated robbery on Thursday.. Police were notified of a robbery that occurred on 4010 5 th Ave. on Wednesday. They spoke with Christopher Worley, who said that earlier that day he was in front of his residence when Johnson drove up and asked him if he wanted to buy some pills. He said he told Johnson no and Johnson drove off. ... (click for more)

Jill Levine Is An Educational Rock Star

No one has covered the Hamilton County Department of Education drama better than Roy Exum.  Thank you, Roy, but I take issue with your unnamed sources.  Professional jealousy and sour grape darts should not be anonymous.   HCDE is so dysfunctional, and there is good cause to place this public organization under a microscope, dissect it into pieces and discard all ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Settle It With A Vote

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which I consider a pretty good authority on what words really mean, defines “freedom” in this way:  “The quality or state of being free: such as, (a) the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; (b) liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; (c) independence -- the quality or state of being exempt ... (click for more)

Shoulders, Hester Lead CSAS Past Lookout Valley, 10-7

Most of the regular-season district softball games are in the book and teams are trying to sharpen their skills as they prepare for the post-season in hopes of landing in Murfreesboro for the season-ending TSSAA state tournament the week before Memorial Day. Such is the case for the Red Bank Lionettes, who are hosting the 2016 Red Bank Invitational this weekend at the Red Bank ... (click for more)

McMasters Makes Tough Call To Play Volleyball At Lee

Grace Baptist Academy two-sport standout Claire McMasters envisioned playing basketball and volleyball at a small college after her career ended with the Lady Golden Eagles. So, she “looked at” Covenant College and Maryville College as two schools where she thought that would be possible to extend her two-sport status. McMasters’ recruiting shifted quickly once Lee University ... (click for more)