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



All School Board Members But Rhonda Thurman Approve Going Ahead With Equity Study

All County School Board members except Rhonda Thurman said Thursday afternoon they are in favor of pushing ahead with an equity study sought by new Supt. Bryan Johnson. Ms. Thurman said she was "tired of bullying tactics by outside groups" such as UnifiEd and Chattanooga 2.0. She said the 132 people who signed a letter in support of the study include people "with deep pockets" ... (click for more)

WWTA Sewer Basin 10 Rehabilitation Project In East Ridge Begins On Friday

WWTA has commenced rehabilitating the aging sewer pipe lines of Basin 10. This $7million project consists of evaluating the current conditions of the sewer lines and repairing any damaged pipes. WWTA estimates that approximately 22,000 linear feet of existing 6 to 18-inch pipes will be replaced through several different methods, depending on location. Those methods include ... (click for more)

The Boss, Claude Ramsey

I try not to overuse the word great, but we lost a great man today, Claude Ramsey. I had the pleasure of serving under him as director of Commercial and Industrial Properties for 14 years while he was the Hamilton County Assessor of Property. He was probably the smartest person I have ever known. He was tough but patient, kind, caring and compassionate. He knew how to get ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Not A Blessed One

When I read, to no great surprise, that 132 of Chattanooga’s “leaders” had signed a letter in support of “socioeconomic integration” in Thursday’s Times Free Press, there were two things that were immediately obvious to me: Not a blessed one would have (a) written such a letter on their personal stationery, and (b) not a blessed one would have ever voted for the current president ... (click for more)

Katie Burrows Sets UTC Women's Basketball Staff

Chattanooga head coach Katie Burrows is putting the finishing touches on her new staff. The faces will remain the same, but the responsibilities will shift.   Assistant coaches Brittany Johnson and Jon Goldberg will remain on the staff and Debbie Black moved from Director of Operations to assistant coach. Former student-athlete Aryanna Gilbert will be the Mocs' student ... (click for more)

CASL: Thursday's High-Point Scorers

CUMBERLAND HIGH-POINT SCORERS: None reported. RIDGESIDE HIGH-POINT SCORERS: 19 – Arianna Bond, Izzy Bauer, Drew Bond, Madeline Bond 17 – Beccan Fitzsimmons, Taj Goodman, Adelaide Bond, Jack Fitzsimmons 16 – Brynne Burkhart 15 – Alex Lowry 14 – Ryan Carpenter, Kathy Zeglen, Owen Eastman 13 – Asa Hedrick 12 – Erynn Whaley, Monica Suttles 11 – Wally ... (click for more)