Rate Hike Request

The utility that provides water and sewer services to the 4,200-resident Gulf Park Estates subdivision near Ocean Springs is seeking approval for an average $12.45 monthly rate increase. The Mississippi Public Service Commission is expected to hold hearings in March on the request filed by Total Environmental Solutions Inc.

Jackson County supervisors want the PSC to fully review the request. ``I'm not saying it's not justified,'' Supervisor John McKay said Thursday. ''But we have a concern that it may be excessive.'' Romain Wilson Powell, who has lived in Gulf Park Estates for 25 years, pays about $43 a month for water and sewer. Her bill would increase to over $55 a month if the billing change is approved. Wilson said she is suspicious of any water and sewer rate increases because she had such a bad experience with Johnson Utilities, the previous water company. Johnson Utilities would ask for more money, but never made the promised improvements, she said. In its letter to Gulf Park Estates residents, TESi said it has spent close to $1 million on capital improvements since it bought Johnson Utilities out of bankruptcy a year ago. ''Johnson left it in criminal condition,'' said TESi district supervisor Steve Jones. ``The rate increase helps to cover expenses already incurred, and allows us to go on with work to bring the system back to proper operating condition and into compliance with federal regulations.''

A new well for Gulf Park Estates will be brought online in the next week, Jones said.