Memphis City Council to debate MLGW rate hikes at Tuesday’s meeting

Memphis City Council to debate MLGW rate hikes at Tuesday’s meeting

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - MLGW leaders will be back before Memphis City Council members Tuesday trying to convince them to hike your utility rates to pay for upgrades.

MLGW CEO J.T. Young has been on a listening tour this past week, trying to get the utility’s message out ahead of Tuesday’s key vote.

“We've had meetings with many of the council members,” Young said.

Young has been busy since Memphis City Council members two weeks ago pressed pause yet again at gas, electric, and water rate increases and the utility’s budget.

Council members cited concerns for customers’ pocketbooks.

Last week, the new head of MLGW went on a media blitz, holding four town halls, and one where he answered customer questions on Facebook Live.

Live Town Hall Meeting

Posted by Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) on Tuesday, February 12, 2019

“I knew coming in there was going to be a challenge around this particular decision and when I came in and actually looked at our infrastructure and saw the state of it, I realized that our customers deserve better,” Young said.

A plan hashed out in council committee would hold off rate increases until 2020.

Young proposed a 5-year $342 million modernization plan on the utility’s aging electric grid with a goal of trimming customer outage minutes in half.

MLGW has offered cost estimates for water, gas, and electric increases that would up bills by roughly $12 a month by the end of five years.

'Folks need reliable service’: MLGW CEO sells rate hike to customers

“I’m still on the fence,” said council member Berlin Boyd. “We need to go back and ask tough questions.”

Boyd opposed the increases two weeks ago and said MLGW must prove they’re making cuts before they ask ratepayers to foot the bill.

“I’m looking forward to the debate, I’m looking forward to the discussion,” Boyd said.

Young said this isn’t simply a matter of cutting costs.

“We are going to continue to look for efficiencies,” Young said. “But the investments that we need to make in our infrastructure at this point far exceed our ability to find offsets.”

Young said these efforts failed Tuesday that they have looked at a budget that will balance but allocates severely less to improvements.

The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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