Debate anticipated at city council over MLGW rate hikes

Debate expected over MLGW rate hike

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A high-stakes debate is expected at the Memphis City Council meeting in the next two weeks.

The topic is another set of MLGW rate increases to pay for infrastructure improvements. The utility says it was ready for that debate Tuesday afternoon, but they will wait.

Meanwhile, the cost of your bill hangs in the balance.

“We were actually prepared to do that today to take it to the full council today,” said MLGW CEO J.T. Young.

After weeks of discussion before the Memphis City Council’s MLGW committee, council members pushed the proposed MLGW rate increases forward to be heard in full council in two weeks.

This ensures attendance from all members and a likely debate.

“We want there to be vigorous discussion, debate, we invite that,” Young said.

The rate hikes in July 2019 and July 2021 are part of a five-year, $342 million modernization plan that MLGW initially proposed in October. The average customer cost is roughly $10 a month after the first hike and $7 more a month after the second one hike.

It applies to gas, water and electric divisions and follows a summer of storms and outage events.

“In the last eight months, that I’ve been here, we have been getting constant feedback regarding reliability issues and the challenges on our system,” Young said.

Similar rate hikes passed in February yielded months of contentious debate with council members voicing concerns about adding to customers' bills.

Councilman Worth Morgan said he’s not sure how the vote will go but hopes the advance notice from MLGW this time around may make the process smoother.

“We brought this information forward sooner this year,” Morgan said. “If council members are coming with frustrations at the eleventh hour that’s where some of the frustration will come in.”

Also, MLGW announced Tuesday that they’ve rolled out an updated customer care phone system. The old one was 20 years old.

Young said this new system has increased functional options and if you have to wait on hold, you’ll keep your place in line, and the system will call you back.

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