County sewer rates to rise?

She said she has written a letter to the TRA listing her concerns and noting that an investigation should be done prior to any approval of the rate hike.

Tennessee Wastewater President Charles Pickney told a Nashville TV reporter recently that his company has not sought a rate increase in the past 10 years, noting the last one was granted in 1999. He said the firm had been losing money as of late, and the company’s costs needed to be covered so it could remain in business.

Lynn does not necessarily disagree, but reiterated that the only to verify the need for the increase, especially one of 70 percent, is for TRA to look into the matter further.

In her letter, Lynn noted that the rate first granted to Tennessee Wastewater 10 years ago, called a tariff, “was speculative; TWS/Onsite (the company was originally known as On-Site Systems) had no operational history. It is understood that no comprehensive cost of service study was performed at that time.”

Lynn said that 10 years when the tariff was granted, it was done without much, if any, study because there was not enough information available about the then-relatively new decentralized sewer system.

She said Wednesday that her main concern was that “Tennessee Wastewater is a big powerhouse in the wastewater industry, and it stands to reason that other wastewater companies” may also seek to increase their sewer rates regardless of whether they are justified.

She added that Tennessee Wastewater has a number of affiliated companies that may be used as vendors which could mean that the company’s prices are higher than they might be otherwise.

Lynn said it was necessary for TRA to look into the matter because the regulatory agency has not asked for list of vendors and needs to make sure who is involved in what at the company.

Wilson County Water and Wastewater Authority has a contract with one of Tennessee Wastewater’s affiliates, but Lynn noted the contract has not been bid competitively.

“How can we be assured Wilson County is receiving a fair rate?” she asked.

Lynn has been looking into wastewater entities for a long time but has run into resistance from some in state government regarding the matter.

“Before a 70 percent rate increase goes into effect,” she said, “I want this investigated.”

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