Audio: Hamilton County Commission recessed meeting — Aug. 28, 2008
As Tennessee-American Water Co. seeks a 20 percent rate increase, Hamilton County should step in and help small utility providers, Hamilton County Commissioner John Allen Brooks said Thursday.
“We have to do something as a county to help some of the smaller water districts and to ensure that our citizens get water at a reasonable cost, not that we’re subject to these continual raises just to satisfy Wall Street,” Mr. Brooks said.
The county has eight water utility districts whose members are appointed by County Mayor Claude Ramsey. The town of Signal Mountain has its own water utility.
Over the past two weeks, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority has held hearings about Tennessee-American’s proposed rate increase. Company officials have said the purpose of the increase is for infrastructural improvements not their bottom line.
The County Commission has passed a resolution opposing the rate increase.
* Sale Creek
* Savannah Valley
* Soddy-Daisy Falling Water
* Union-Fork Bakewell
* Walden’s Ridge
Mr. Brooks said he wants the state Legislature to establish a water authority for Hamilton County.
“We could ... provide access to the smaller utility districts — if they want to join — to greater resources,” he said.
State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he would listen to any recommendation from the County Commission but would need proof showing reasons for changing how water utilities are managed.
“The utilities sort of govern themselves,” he said.
Kim Dalton, spokeswoman for Tennessee-American, said there’s no need for an authority.
“A new layer of oversight would simply add a cost to our customers that’s not necessary,” she said.
Commissioner Richard Casavant said the county already has a water authority, the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority. He said it would be up to that authority whether they wanted to oversee the utility districts and up to the districts to decide whether to come together under the authority’s umbrella.
Currently, the authority oversees many of the county’s sewer systems.
Officials for the county’s water and wastewater authority did not return calls seeking comment.
Dr. Casavant said he believes the county has too many water utilities.
“Some are so small they don’t have economies of scale,” he said.