Tempers flare over proposed MLGW rate hike

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For weeks, Memphis City Council has debated MLGW's request for rate hikes.

Last month, the full council said no to water rate hikes and held off on electric and gas hikes and approval of the utility's budget.

"People who cannot afford to pay, it touches our hearts as well; we don't want to put an additional burden on them," said MLGW Committee Chair Patrice Robinson.

Council members voted to increase water rates but voted against increasing MLGW's gas and electric rates at Tuesday's meeting. They also decided to hold off on voting for MLGW's budget.

But earlier Tuesday, the council's MLGW committee gave a green light again to electric and gas increases, holding to a previous decision to raise gas rates 4.5 percent in 2018 and 2019.

They also approved a new proposal for electric rates to increase 2.3 percent each year from July 2018 until 2020.

MLGW said the compromise would cut 13 million from their revenue request.

President and CEO Jerry Collins said he wouldn't rule out job cuts as a result.

"We would have to mitigate the impact through some internal operational savings," Collins said.

When asked if that meant possible staff reductions, Collins said it was "to be determined."

"I can't tell you how pissed off I am about this. Here we are and you're telling us today, and here we are now--we have to vote on a rate increase," said council member Phillip Spinosa.

Spinosa said MLGW's ask should've come sooner than when it presented its budget in late November.

He wants council members to sign off on a proposal that would require MLGW to notify the council 180 days before any rate increases.

However, not everyone is on board with that.

"This is the first time that this council has even been approached with a rate increase, I don't agree with that," said council member Martavius Jones.

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