Council committee approves MLGW rate hikes

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new voice came out against proposed electric rate hikes at Memphis Light Gas and Water on Tuesday. The Memphis Chamber of Commerce informed council members Tuesday morning that businesses across the city aren't in favor of paying more.

"Their utility bills are really significant, so a 7 percent increase would adversely impact their operations," Kelly Rayne, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the Memphis Chamber said.

Rayne said hiking the electric rates would be bad for business, as hundreds of manufacturing companies in the city with electric bills in the millions could see significant increases if the rate hikes are approved and begin in January.

Rayne asked the committee for a two week delay, but the committee didn't gr ant it.

MLGW officials brought their request for water, gas, and electric rate increases to council members just before Thanksgiving, saying the electric and gas divisions would run out of cash if nothing is done. The water increase goes to research on protecting the Memphis aquifer.

"My heart is really heavy right now," Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen said. "MLGW is running out of money, my constituents are saying the same. They're running out of money."

The council committee approved the water rate increase of 1 percent, amounting to roughly 18 cents monthly, as well as a proposal to increase gas rates by 4.5 percent in years 2018 and 2019, translating to $1.62 and $1.69 a month.

The electric rate increase drew more discussion, but the committee eventually gave the green light for a 2.3 percent increase for the next three years, equating to $2.62 a month next year, followed by $2.68 in 2019, and $2.74 in 2020.

"We're about to go into a perfect storm," council member Martavius Jones said.

The full City Council must still read through and approve the increases before they go into effect.

"You can't continue to go without a rate increase. It's reality," MLGW President and CEO Jerry Collins said.

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