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Water users protest PSC recommendation

September 06, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - U.S. Silica Co.'s appeal to the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) protesting a flat water rate was heard Wednesday, and members of the public showed up to protest a recommended rate increase alternative.

Several local water customers at the hearing spoke against the PSC recommendation to increase the water rates instead of allowing the flat water rate that was approved a few months ago by the Bath Town Council.

The flat rate of $8.77 per 1,000 gallons for the first 6,000 gallons would benefit smaller users, but would be a substantial increase for larger users.

U.S. Silica, the largest water user of Berkeley Springs Water Works, the town-owned water department, filed an appeal with the PSC, claiming discrimination.

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Last week, the PSC sent a recommendation to the Town of Bath that an increase in the current rate structure be adopted. The council met last Friday and voted 3-2 to accept the recommendation.

Jim Slough, who represented town water customers at the hearing, said the council should have waited until the appeal was heard before accepting the higher water rate proposal.

Councilman David Crosby, who chairs the town's finance committee, spoke against the PSC recommendation. He said the town wanted a flat rate because of the "serious inequity in the price structure."

Residents Lori Higgs, Lisa Webster and Vickie Phillips protested the PSC's recommended rates.

"The rate is already too high and I won't be able to pay the increase," Higgs said.

Crosby said at Tuesday night's council meeting that the average household uses about 13,500 gallons per quarter. The current bill of $112.13 would jump to $153.60, a 37 percent increase, with the PSC's recommended rates.

A decision will be made Sept. 22, when the ruling is due, said Judge John Carter, the administrative law judge for the PSC.

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