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Ranson residents protest sewer increase

July 30, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.Va. - More than 400 Ranson residents have signed a petition protesting a 32 percent increase in sewer rates in the city, a jump that hits people on low and fixed incomes too hard, a Ranson resident involved in the protest effort said Thursday.

The Ranson City Council passed the sewer rate increase about a month ago after it was recommended by the state Public Service Commission, City Manager David Mills said.

The town was using taxpayer money to subsidize its sewer operations, a practice which the Public Service Commission discourages, Mills said.

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Officials with the Public Service Commission, which regulates rates, charges and services of public utilities, came to Ranson last year to review the town's sewer operations and recommended the 32 percent rate increase, Mills said.

George Rutherford, a Ranson resident who helped organize the petition, said some Ranson residents are worrying how they will pay for the rate increase.

Some Ranson water and sewer customers are paying between $150 and more than $200 a month for water, sewer and garbage pickup service and residents with low or fixed incomes are concerned about a further rate hike, Rutherford said.

Other than signing a petition, Ranson residents have little recourse but to pay more for sewer, Ranson resident Devona Snyder said.

If television cable service gets too expensive, customers can go back to using an antenna, said Snyder, who supported the petition drive.

That's not possible with sewer, Snyder said.

"You can't go back to your septic tank because the town says you can't do it," Snyder said.

When a government passes a utility rate hike, the increase can be protested if at least 25 percent of the customers sign a petition, a Public Service Commission spokeswoman said Thursday.

If enough people sign a petition, the Public Service Commission will assign a case number to the rate hike and begin looking into the matter to determine if the rate hike is too high, the spokeswoman said.

The PSC has not received the Ranson petition, the spokeswoman said.

It was sent to the agency today, Rutherford said.

Organizers of the effort took the petition door-to-door in Ranson Monday and received more than 400 petitions, Rutherford said. Rutherford said 320 signatures were needed to reach the 25-percent plateau.

Mills said the sewer rate increase is not going to be used to pay for any luxuries in the sewer system. The town's sewer service is a "bare-bones" operation, and the employees in charge of its upkeep are the same employees who pick up garbage and take care of other duties in town, Mills said.

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