An estimated $740 million in capital investments is the reason Aquarion Water Company has requested that it be allowed to increase its rates, according to company representatives presenting at a public hearing Thursday night before the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
The company’s application seeks approval of its amended rates for the provision of water distribution service effective for a three-year period starting in March 2023. Aquarion says it needs to increase its rates to address $27.5 million in operating revenue deficiencies in the first year, according to the company’s presentation.
Don Morrissey, Aquarion’s president, said in addition to the capital investments, “we have faced inflationary pressures as has the rest of the world.”
There will be additional deficiencies of $13.6 million for the second year, and another $8.8 million in the third year, prompting the proposed rate increase of 13.9% in the first year, an additional 6% in year two, and 3.7% in year three.
Morrissey said the company has not raised its rates in nine years, and that they will still be among the most affordable even with the increase. The annual average water bill cost will go from $618 to $669.
The proposal includes the introduction of an inclining block rate structure, which breaks customers up into four different tiers. Customers in areas where more water is consumed will pay higher rates, according to the Aquarion presentation.
Some residents participating in the remote hearing simply posed questions to Aquarion representatives, although they were reminded by PURA Chair Marissa Gillett that the three-member commission was there to hear public comments as opposed to Aquarion answering inquiries.
Alice Blackman, who is on the board of her condominium complex in Danbury, said those living there have questions about how the rate increase will work for places that have more than 50 people living in a particular location.
“Our water costs have been increasing over the years,” Blackman said. She said the board is at the point where it is considering getting individual water meters for each unit.
Public officials including Attorney General William Tong and Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda L. Kupchick have voiced their opposition to the rate increase proposal.
“Aquarion’s proposed rate increase during record-high inflation and vast supply chain issues that have affected our residents and small business owners greatly is insensitive to the realities of this economy,” Kupchick wrote in a Sept. 1 letter to PURA. “The cost of living in Connecticut is already among the highest in the nation, and this rate increase is an unreasonable burden for residents and small business owners in Fairfield and all towns in Connecticut.”
Gillett said all comments and questions from the public hearings and those submitted in writing will be considered by PURA as it comes up to evidentiary hearings, which will be held later in the year.
“For now I will say that I have heard you, my colleagues have heard you,” Gillett said.
PURA will compile comments submitted by the public through Mon., Oct. 25, either through public hearings – Thursday’s public hearing was the second of four – or in writing by submitting comments via email at PURA.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov or by mailing them to PURA at Ten Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.