CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As West Virginia American Water Company officials work to hammer out the details of a new rate increase approved by the state Public Service Commission, members of the Kanawha County Commission are voicing their opposition to the hike.

Lance Wheeler

“When does this end? It seems like every six months one of these utility companies will get approval for an increase and they’ll come back to the PSC we need more. There needs to be a plan for this,” Commission President Lance Wheeler said on Tuesday’s “580 Live” with Dave Allen heard on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston.

The PSC on Saturday approved an 8 percent rate hike for water and sewer rates for WVAWC, which is significantly less than the 22.5 percent increase that the utility was seeking. The official filing was closer to $44 million last May.

The average water customer’s bill increased by $5.69 a month and the average sewer customer’s bill increased by $5.59. The change took effect Saturday.

Wheeling said the increase doesn’t seem like much, but that’s on top of other increased spending residents have to think about.

“We have to budget, as individuals, what we’re going to be spending for whether it’s buying a new car or buying a new house. The $5 a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you start adding in the Mountaineer Gas, the electric company, the water company, this is really starting to add up,” he said.

WVAWC spokesperson Megan Hannah wrote in an email to MetroNews the company has received the order from the PSC.

Megan Hannah

“At this time, the company is still reviewing the contents of this order to determine customer rate impacts. Any numbers that have been reported so far have not been verified by our company,” Hannah stated.

The water company proposed the rate hike to pay for water and wastewater upgrades that have been made since 2020 and for upgrades projected through Feb. 2025. Those investments total approximately $340 million.

Wheeler said he understands infrastructure upgrades are critical, but said the utility needs to get a better handle on its spending despite rising costs.

“We understand that with inflation in the last three years prices are going up and the cost of business is going up. There needs to be some type of increase for these utility companies so they can continue to upgrade because we are currently in a situation of the past 20 years that the infrastructure is falling apart. They need this money now to catch up. I understand that, but what we need to also make sure that we’re doing is have a plan in place,” he said.

The company defended its proposed hike during a Dec. 2023 evidentiary hearing.

WVAWC has more than 560,000 customers in West Virginia.