Cumberland Times-News

Local News

June 3, 2014

Water, sewer rate increase being sought for Highland Estates, Pinto

Price hike due to a net loss of $67,375, according to MWS

— CUMBERLAND — Just three years after a water rate increase for customers of Maryland Water Services Inc. at Highland Estates and Pinto, a new increase for both water and sewer services has been requested by the company from the Maryland Public Service Commission.

The company has 950 water and sewer customers in the Pinto area and 40 water customers in Highland Estates.

“By this filing, MWS seeks authority for a total proposed increase in revenues of approximately $75,043 for water service and $172,901 for wastewater service

or a 29.22 percent overall increase. The MWS system consists of both the Highland Estates water system and the Pinto water and wastewater system. The proposed increase to the company’s rates and charges will result in an increase on the average Highland Estates residential water customer of 7.96 percent; and on the average Pinto water customer of 7 percent and the average Pinto wastewater customer of approximately 33.92 percent,” according to the company’s request filed with the PSC.

The company says it is losing money.

“Under its existing rates over the same test year period ending Sept. 30, 2013, MWS combined water operations actually lost money. Specifically, MWS combined operations during the test year resulted in a per books net loss of $67,375,” according to the company’s request.

Capital improvements over the past few years have cost the company a great deal of money.

Among those improvements were the purchase of a new 76,000 gallon water tank costing $149,503 in 2010 and investigation and repair of overflow situations costing $250,912 in 2013. In 2014, the company plans work in Pinto including new pumps and piping.

“The Pinto water booster pumps and electrical controls are over 30 years old and are the major source for supply of water to approximately 255 customers. ... The pumps and controls are outdated and have become unreliable. The pump station has been down four times in three years for pump repairs at a cost of between $6,000 and $10,000. The pumps and electric controls need to be replaced in order to continue uninterrupted service to the customers,” according to the company’s filings with the PSC.

The Office of People’s Counsel has entered the case on behalf of customers.

A scheduling order states that a proposed order in the case is to be issued Sept. 2 and a final order Sept. 29. A public hearing for comment will also be scheduled, but no date has been set yet, according to PSC documents. The likely date is between July 28 and Aug.1, according to a May 8 email to local legislators from attorney Brian Quinn, who represents the company. Highland Estates is in the Naves Crossroad area. Pinto is located southwest of Cumberland.

The 2011 case resulted in a 39 percent water rate increase for Highland Estates customers.

The company filed the current request March 31. For more on the case, visit the PSC website and search for case no. 9345.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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