Middlesboro residents are pouring out their hearts to the Public Service Commission in handwritten letters, letters typed on letterhead stationary, in form letters and emails. At this writing over fifty letters are shown on the Public Service Commission website.
They are expressing their dismay at Water Services Corp of Kentucky's (WSCKY) latest request for a rate increase.
Their plea over and over again "Please listen to the public cry of the people of Middlesboro."
The company is asking customers in the only two towns they serve, Clinton and Middlesboro, to kick in more on their water bill to up company revenue by $1,080,300. The company is asking for a net increase of 38.32%. This increase follows one granted to WSCKY two years ago. The company has requested increases every two years, the minimum allowed under Kentucky law,
The notice to Middlesboro residents sent in their June water bills misstated the site of the increase. The notice to Middlesboro only said "customers in Clinton". Several comments angrily mentioned the oversight.
In a letter dated July 3, 2020, attorney John L. Brown wrote "The notice in the local paper, and that I received, enclosed, initially says WSC of Kentucky gives notice to its customers in CLINTON that it intends to adopt an increase in its water rates. I live in Middlesboro.
Most everyone I have talked to oppose an increase but are not concerned and will not contact you because the notice says customers in CLINTON. I believe the notice was intentionally misleading and inadequate..."
Other letters came from disabled and seniors living on social security. Linda wrote "all I have is social security that I live on, and pay my bills." Another wrote of her family situation. Her husband is a disabled truck driver and all they have is social security.
WSCKY has attempted in their application to soften the burden on lower income residents. The public notice states "To increase affordability for our most at-risk customers, WSCK is proposing an opt-in, low-income rate such that residences whose incomes fall below the poverty line can take advantage of lower volumetric rate."
There will be many eligible for the assistance if they can access it. The Census Bureau's survey shows Middlesboro, a city in Bell County, has one of the highest poverty rates among small towns in the country, with 40 percent of the town's population living in poverty. The poverty line in Clinton in 2018 was close to 30%.
The City Council of Middlesboro voted to send a certified letter to the PSC. Mayor Rick Nelson wrote "The citizens of Middlesboro simply cannot afford this increase at this time. We understand that the company's costs have gone up but an increase of this rate would put a real hardship on their users."
Clinton's City Council voted to attempt to intervene in the case in order to fully participate in the rate hearing. WSCKY opposes the intervention. The Kentucky Attorney General, who by statute represents rate payers, signaled his approval of the intervention.
Hickman County Schools, the largest employer in Clinton, also filed a motion to intervene in the case. Both requests are currently pending before the Commission.
In this time of shrinking economy, high unemployment and rising poverty, the people of Middlesboro and its water sister Clinton face an increase in water rates that few can afford.
Anyone can weigh in. There are several ways to comment on WSCKY's request.
Always include your name, address and the case number: 2020-00160.
- Write a letter to the Public Service Commission, P. O. Box 615, Frankfort KY 40602
- Comment on the Public Service Commission website: http://psc.ky.gov/
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org