Madison Water Utility customers could see 26 percent rate increase

Madison Water Utility customers could see 26 percent rate increase
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Madison Water Utility customers could see an increase on their bill next May.

The water company filed an application with the Public Service Commission that, if approved, would increase water rates by 26 percent, according to a release issued Monday.

The utility is seeking an additional $8.7 million to replace deteriorating water mains, reconstruct aging wells and improve water quality, company officials said. The increase would also help recover lost revenue from the closure of the Oscar Mayer plant. If approved, this would be the first water rate increase since 2015.

Rate increases would only apply to the water portion of a customer’s service bill.

“What we don’t want to do is to keep water artificially low and defer maintenance, what we need to do to our system, because the whole reason we have an infrastructure replacement program is so that we don’t push off this problem for the next generation,” said Tom Heikkinen, general manager of Madison Water Utility.

According to the release, Madison customers currently pay, on average. $19 a month. Under the proposed rate increase, residential customers could see an increase of $3 to $7 per month. It has not been determined how a rate increase would be spread across customer groups, including commercial, industrial, residential and multi-family homes

Ale Asylum uses around 5 million gallons of water a year from in it’s brewery alone. Otto Dilba, vice president of the brewery, said the proposed increase would have a big impact on their budget.

“You’re talking several thousand dollars,” he said “As these costs continue to rise like this and it’s not just local, it’s state and federal everything just keeps on going and keeps on hitting, and it’s getting harder for small businesses to operate.” Dilba said.

Dilba said he has no problem paying his fair share as rates increase to cover infrastructure cost, but he is concerned that part of the increase is to help make up for lost revenue from the Oscar Mayer plant.

“It’s difficult to take that at face value and say because you lost that business we have to suck it up and make up the difference. There should be some fallback position to where families and businesses don’t have to make it up,” he said.

The application will go to PSC for review the process could take more than six months. A public hearing is scheduled in early 2018 to discuss the increase.