Supervisors discuss utility rate increases

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors assesses the complicated solution to the recent increase of Utility Authority rates for the residents of the Wildwood subdivision.

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors assesses the complicated solution to the recent increase of Utility Authority rates for the residents of the Wildwood subdivision.

During Monday’s Pearl River County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board heard public concerns about the increasing rates from the Pearl River County Utility Authority.
“I about had it out with them about the increase of Hide-A-Way Lake’s rates, but now it seems like they are passing increased rates to the Wildwood subdivision. I think we all have a good understanding that rates do go up sometimes, but it’s the amount they are going up that needs attention,” said Board President Sandy Kane Smith.
In March, a $5 increase per month was added to the bills of Hide-A-Way Lake residents, bringing their bills in-line with those of Picayune residents.
In May, the rates charged to residents in the Wildwood subdivision increased from $24.25 to $35.75 per month said Pearl River County Utility Authority Executive Director Ray Scott. That is a flat rate estimate of water usage by residents of the area, Scott said. The Utility Authority uses a flat rate for those customers because the Pearl River Central Water Association does not share water usage information with them, Scott said. Scott could not say why that information is not being shared.
“Pearl River Central Water Association does not share information based on water usage numbers. This has been happening for a while now, so we have worked around that by using a well formulated process to make a flat rate. We take the average of the household and people in the household and it comes out to be a little over $35 per month,” said Scott.
Scott said the $24.25 rate was established in the early stages of the Utility Authority, before they did any official studies, which was around 2008. The initial rate was also based on minimal usage of water for the customers, said Scott.
To overcome the complications of the lack of communication between the Utility Authority and Pearl River Central Water Association, Scott said the Utility Authority utilizes a process that includes public hearings, independent studies, and rate studies to ensure their flat rate estimates are as accurate as they can be. He also said they use the amount of water that goes into each household to determine usage, when that information is provided.
“We are required to do rate studies every three to four years. This time around, the rate studies showed that an average rate in Wildwood was 6,000 gallons of water per month for an average family of two, which equates to $35.75,” said Scott.
Wildwood resident John Guillory shared his opinion on the new rate during the board meeting.
“We should ask the Senate to pass a bill to get a cap on the rising rates. As a resident, I would like to know exactly how much water I am using. It seems like they are charging us whatever they want just because they can, and we cannot do anything about it. The relationship between them and the Water Association is costing us money,” said Guillory.
Scott disputes the claims made by Guillory.
“We do not just plop random numbers on residents. There are sophisticated processes we go through to make sure everything is represented accurately,” said Scott.
For additional coverage of Monday’s meeting, see Wednesday’s edition of the Item.

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