Cumberland Times-News

May 17, 2013

PSC approves Keyser sewer rate hike, customers due refund

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

— KEYSER, W.Va. — The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved a sewer rate increase for Keyser for all service after June 24 and a refund of 1.01 percent of the money collected from each customer under the interim rates.

 “The utility shall issue a credit on each customer’s bill for the amount of the refund,” states the PSC filing. “The utility shall clearly designate on the bill that the credit is a refund ordered by the commission for charges collected under the interim rates, which were eventually determined to be in excess of the appropriate rate.”

Last year, the commission approved a 12.01 percent interim rate increase subject to refund.

A couple of glitches in the proposed sewer rate increase for Keyser customers were discovered during a PSC hearing held in April.

“The staff had omitted a rate for sewage cost being charged by metered water flow,” said Mayor Randy Amtower during a previous council meeting. “We currently have it in our tariff now; we currently have it in the interim rates.”

The rate was left out in the staff recommendations for the going-level project rates, according to Amtower.

“It wasn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. It was a matter of miscommunication that staff thought New Creek PSD (Public Service District) was billed off of a sewage flow meter, when in fact we were billing off of water consumption,” said Amtower.

PSC Utilities Analyst Jonathan McGuire, who created the class cost of service study, believes that unless resale customer New Creek suddenly has a large increase in its inflow and infiltration, the rates generated should support the proposed sewer project. In any future rates developed for the utility, McGuire recommended correcting the problems.

“If and when flow meters are installed, the rates will be correct,” states the filing.

 PSC staff is recommending that a sewer rate of $2.60 for both resale customers New Creek and McCoole until the project is complete and then is recommending that it goes up to $2.86, according to the filing.

The PSC is requiring the city to install proper flow meters to measure the flows from the New Creek Public Service District as a part of its next sewer certificate case before the commission. Upon completion of the project, the city is also required to make improvements to the inflow and infiltration.

The PSC also approved the certificate of convenience and necessity to construct the improvements to the sewer system and approved the proposed financing for the project, which includes a $2,642,000 Rural Utility Service loan at an interest rate of 2.5 percent for 40 years.

The funding calculates to $1,149 per customer, according to the filing.

The new wastewater treatment plant is needed to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration mandates for limits on nitrogen and phosphorus. The current plant can’t meet the limits, which must be met by Dec. 31, 2015.

The sewer system serves 2,300 existing customers as well as two resale customers, according to the filing.