Damakant Jayshi

Written comments submitted to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin unanimously oppose Wausau’s proposed water rate increase, though no one appeared in person Thursday for a public hearing on the matter.

All 18 written comments submitted to PSC, as of this writing, on the proposed rate increase said the proposed 54% rate increase is very high. Most commenters asked the state commission to reject it altogether, though a few said they favored a gradual increase.

For a residential customer with a 5/8-inch or ¾-inch meter using 1,200 cubic feet of water per quarter, the rate will increase from $72.87 to $112.23 per quarter.

During the hearing on conducted on Zoom, Brian Roemer from Ehlers Public Finance Advisors, the city’s financial consultant, justified the proposed hike on a “multitude of factors,” including an increased cost of operation and maintenance, the same reasons that he cited while proposing a 65% increase in water rate in December 2022.

Public Works Director Eric Lindman and Superintendent of Drinking Water Division Scott Boers were among the city staff who attended the hearing but did not make any comments.

About two weeks later, the Department of Public Works and Utilities filed an application to the PSC to increase its water revenue by 4,737,469 or 64.31% over the utility’s present revenues. All rate increase requests are submitted with the PSC which has the authority to act on such requests. The last rate increase in Wausau was in 2020.

All comments except one were submitted after May 1, when the DPW issued a public notice about its rate increase application to the PSC. The utility justified the increase “due to a 56.50 percent increase in gross plant investment and a 40.60 percent increase in operating expenses since the last water rate case was completed in 2020.”

Residents are angry.

“The recent rate increases for water have been difficult for homeowners,” Alice Kristek said in written comment to the PSC. “I absolutely vote no to increasing the rates for residential tax payers of the city. I have still not seen information come out as to why 3M and the other heavy contributors to the water contamination issue haven’t had to put the majority of funds into the new water treatment build.” 3M, a multinational company, has a plant in the City of Wausau.

“I own a laundromat on north 3rd ave in Wausau Wi,” wrote James Wagner, on Feb. 27. “I am worried because we already absorbed a 30 percent increase this last year and half.”

Chad Lohff, who also opposed to the proposed hike, said that the Wausau utility needed “to level out the rate hike so it’s not so much,” and suggested increasing rates over a longer period of time.

People can still submit comments to the PSC until Monday, May 22 through the PSC’s electronic record filing system or via U.S. mail to: Docket 6300-WR-106 Comments Public Service Commission P.O. Box 7854 Madison, WI 53707.