Hamilton County Commission
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey on Wednesday said he wants city and county officials to pass a joint resolution opposing a proposed Tennessee-American Water Co. rate increase.
“There will be a process where I hope we could intervene,” he said. “I know the manufacturers association is very concerned about it, and a lot of our citizens are concerned about it.”
At Wednesday’s Hamilton County Commission meeting, Mr. Ramsey asked County Attorney Rheubin Taylor to meet with City Attorney Randy Nelson to draft the resolution. No commissioners voiced objections.
The water company is asking for its second rate increase in less than a year. The company has filed a request with state regulators to increase rates by about 20 percent, or about 12 cents per day for the average residential customer.
“We recognize the responsibility that Mayor Ramsey and the commission have in representing the interest of the county residents,” John Watson, president of Tennessee-American Water, said in an e-mail statement. “We look forward to presenting the details of the rate filing and to answering the commission's questions before they consider the resolution. We hope to do the same thing with the City Council.”
The added revenue would go to infrastructure improvements in the system, company officials said.
Richard Beeland, a spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said city officials plan to contest the rate increase.
“We welcome the county’s shared concern on this issue,” he said.
Commissioner Richard Casavant suggested that officials attach to the resolution a copy of a county auditor’s analysis of water utilities throughout the county.
That analysis found that a Tennessee-American residential water bill for 10,000 gallons of usage was the sixth most expensive out of the county’s 10 water utilities.
County Commission Chairman Bill Hullander said the commission could vote on a resolution to oppose the increase by its April 10 meeting.
Also on Wednesday, the commission unanimously passed a resolution to provide $54,400 to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department for tuberculosis prevention.
Dr. Casavant asked department Administrator Becky Barnes how much of a problem tuberculosis has been in Hamilton County.
“Any time there’s any TB in our community there’s a problem,” she said.
Ms. Barnes said the county records about 13 to 14 cases of the illness each year. She also noted that there have been no instances of tuberculosis strains entirely resistant to drugs.
Last year, a former employee at Chattanooga’s Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant was diagnosed with tuberculosis, causing the company and local health officials to warn employees about possible exposure. A company nurse sent about 30 workers home after they received a warning letter.
Tests showed that there was no evidence of the illness spreading among workers.
Tennessee-American Water last raised its rates in May 2007, when it instituted a 12.3 percent increase. The utility then had asked the Tennessee Regulatory Authority for a 19.7 percent increase. The 20.6 percent increase the utility now is requesting would be the largest in the company’s 138 years.