Water Industry News
38% water rate
(Middlesex Water) also wants interim hike as plan weighed
By GARY HABER
The News Journal
Tidewater Utilities Inc., (Middlesex Water) which supplies water to
more than 28,000 Delaware customers south of the Chesapeake & Delaware
Canal, wants to hike rates by 38.6 percent.
If Friday's request is approved, the average customer's bill would rise
about $12.97 a month, or $155.64 a year.
The request to the state Public Service Commission comes at a time when
motorists are already facing gasoline costs nearing $3 a gallon for
regular unleaded and three days before Delmarva Power's 59 percent
electricity rate increase is scheduled to take effect.
Under the proposal, the average Tidewater customer, who uses 5,000
gallons a month, would pay $46.58 a month for 5,000 gallons, up from the
current $33.61 a month, the company said.
The company said it needs the increase, its first since April 2005, to
pay for system upgrades and to cover increased operating costs. The
company, which has added about 2,000 customers a year for the past decade,
plans to spend $19.6 million on improvements this year, including
replacing older pump houses with larger, more efficient units. The rate
hike would boost Tidewater's annual revenue by $5.5 million a year, the
"We're a 42-year-old company, and some of this infrastructure is
showing its age," said Tidewater president Gerald Esposito.
The increase will improve service to existing customers, he said.
The requested increase would not apply to the 2,000 customers in the
Sea Colony community near Bethany Beach, served by Southern Shores Water
Co., a Tidewater subsidiary.
Tidewater wants commission approval for an interim 15 percent rate hike
starting June 27 that would be in place while the agency considers the
application for the full 38.6 percent increase, a process that could take
seven to 12 months, the company said. A 15 percent increase would raise
the average Tidewater customer's bill to about $38.65 a month.
Tidewater sought a 24 percent rate increase in April 2004. The company
and the commission settled on a 15 percent increase in October 2004 and on
a second increase of 4.5 percent in April 2005.
John Citrolo, deputy director of the state Division of the Public
Advocate, said he couldn't comment on the specifics of Tidewater's request
because he hadn't seen the application.
Citrolo said the office will intervene in the case on behalf of
Delaware consumers, as it does in all rate cases.
A public hearing would be held before the commission rules on the
proposed rate increase.
Tidewater, a wholly owned subsidiary of Iselin, N.J.-based Middlesex
Water Co., had 2005 revenue of $12.8 million. Parent company Middlesex
Water had revenue of $74.6 million last year.
Middlesex Water, a publicly traded company, which trades on Nasdaq,
earned $8.5 million, or 71 cents a share, last year.
Contact Gary Haber at 324-2878 or firstname.lastname@example.org.