UPDATE: The IURC's final order in this case was issued on July 19, 2006, approving a settlement agreement between the OUCC and the City of Martinsville.
OUCC news release, issued Dec. 9, 2005:
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is reviewing the City of Martinsville's proposal for an additional increase in its water rates and charges. The OUCC - the state agency representing consumer interests in all cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) - has not yet taken a position on the city's current request but is scheduled to file testimony on Monday, January 9, 2006. Customers who wish to provide written comments on the proposal may submit them to the OUCC's consumer services staff via mail, e-mail or fax.
Martinsville's municipal water utility received IURC approval for a temporary rate increase in August 2004, followed by a permanent rate increase in January 2005 to pay for environmental testing, new personnel, and maintenance of wells and storage tanks. The city and the OUCC reached settlement agreements on both increases; the settlement approved in January 2005 provided for a 36.3 percent increase instead of the 54 percent increase the city had originally requested.
In this new stage of the ongoing proceeding, Martinsville is requesting a permanent two-phase increase, including a 99.1 percent increase over current rates in Phase One and an additional 14.4 percent increase in Phase Two.
Under the city's proposal, the monthly water bill for a residential customer who uses 5,000 gallons per month would rise from $9.54 to $19.00 in the first phase, then to $21.75 in Phase Two. (For a residential customer using 5,000 gallons in the Morgan-Monroe Forestry Area, the monthly bill would increase from $18.60 to $37.02 in Phase One, and to $42.37 in Phase Two.) The city is also requesting IURC permission to issue up to $8.96 million in long-term debt.
The city advises, in its testimony before the Commission, that it is seeking the rate and financing changes to recover legal expenses related to environmental litigation and to pay for capital improvements - including main replacements and improvements, the demolition and replacement of one of the utility's storage tanks, improvements to another existing tank and construction of a new, third storage tank. In testimony, the city also advises that it is deferring construction of a new wellfield and water treatment plant, and not seeking to recover related costs at this time. However, the utility intends to pursue those additions within the next five years following a detailed study of water loss from its existing infrastructure.
An IURC evidentiary hearing in this case is currently scheduled for Monday, February 6, 2006 in Indianapolis, at the Indiana Government Center - South. While evidentiary hearings are open to the public, participation is typically limited to attorney and Commission questioning of technical witnesses that have filed testimony on behalf of the proceeding's formal parties. All hearing and filing dates are subject to change.
A settlement agreement is possible in any legal proceeding; such a settlement would be subject to IURC approval. The OUCC attempts to reach a fair agreement for residential and business consumers in each IURC case.
A consumer who wishes to provide written comments in this case should do so in advance of the OUCC's January 9 filing deadline and include his or her name and address, along with a reference to "IURC Cause No. 42676." The OUCC accepts written consumer comments by mail, fax and the Internet:
- Mail: Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
100 N. Senate Ave., Room N501
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2215
- Fax: (317) 232-5923
- E-mail: uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov
- OUCC Website: www.IN.gov/OUCC
Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC's consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494. In addition, the OUCC offers a number of free publications on utility consumer issues - including a summary of the state regulatory process and tips for reducing water and energy bills. All OUCC publications are available on the agency's Website or by calling the agency toll-free.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency that represents the interests of all utility consumers and the public in matters related to the provision of utility services. The agency is active in proceedings before regulatory and legal bodies, and committed to giving consumers a voice in the creation of utility service policy. Residential, commercial and industrial customers with questions or concerns regarding utility service can contact the OUCC toll-free at 1-888-441-2494 or online at www.IN.gov/OUCC.
(IURC Cause No. 42676)
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