Utility bills for service provided by Ohio American Water went up a statewide average of 11.3 percent this year and the company is notifying Truro Township and Madison Township residents it plans to ask for more.
Ohio American Water General Manager Dave Little and Network Operations Superintendent Tom Schwing reported on their projected 2007 Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) filing to the Truro Township trustees on Nov. 1. The last filing took place in March 2006 and the new rate went into effect earlier this year.
"The primary driver is investment," emphasized Little. "We made an $8.9 million investment this year. It’s always our burden to prove for rate cases and this is something the PUCO investigates before making a determination. It is a very long, drawn-out, extensive process. Gallon per gallon, Columbus is cheaper than us, but there’s an economy of scale. There are operational standards and we are held to a higher standard. As a private entity, we also pay taxes."
According to Schwing, the company is in the process of asking for an overall statewide increase of 16.83 percent, but is unsure when or how much of an increase the PUCO will grant once it makes a final ruling on the request. The process includes public hearings and meeting notifications are available on the commission’s Web site.
Prior to the spring rate hike, American Water sought an increase in late 2003 and was granted a 9.16 percent increase in February 2005.
"We’re a private utility and we’re regulated, as opposed to a non-regulated municipality," said Schwing. "The increases we ask for are based only on actual expenses; on money that’s already been spent this year."
Schwing said the local treatment plant is housed in the Blacklick Estates development and also services the Qualstan subdivision. Water comes from a trio of ground producing wells and the plant operates under Environmental Protection Agency standards for water quality.
When Truro Township Fiscal Officer Nancy Schroyer asked why the water leaves a mineral residue when boiled, the superintendent said, unlike Columbus, which softens its water during the treatment process, American Water delivers hard water to its consumers for softening at the point of use.
The explanation offered little consolation to Schroyer, who told the Ohio American Water representatives their end product was "crappy" and most of the people she knows won’t drink the water coming out of their faucets. Resident Gabrielle Thomas said the rate hike is above reasonable and customary, and although people cannot live without water, customers in the American Water coverage area are "stuck" with the company.
"We cannot afford your utility," continued Thomas. "This will raise my average bill to over $100 a month and there are only three people in our house. Water heaters don’t last. Dishwashers don’t last. This (increase) will put us over a 50 percent increase in a year."