Water Rate Increase Upsets Community

Some Jackson County residents are paying more for their water and sewer service, and they are not happy about it.

Total Environmental Solutions Incorporated has added a Katrina Relief rate hike to customers' bills. Residents say this isn't the first time their bill has increased since the storm, but they want to make sure it's the last.

B.D. Root is spending most of his time maintaining his lawn, but this new retiree says problems with his water company are not making his hobby any easier.

"There is not enough pressure to use the sprinkler system most of the time for the yards," Root said.

Low pressure, discoloration, and an outdoor leak are just some of the homeowner's concerns. That's why he is questioning new charges to his water bill.

"We just now got the bill saying we had an increase, we never got no official paperwork or nothing," Root said.

Leaders with TESI say the company is just trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina, like many other businesses on the Coast. After being turned down for federal and state funds, they said they had no choice but to increase rates.

That's not sitting well with customers like Donna Snell. She understand's TESI's reasons for the increase, but what she doesn't get is why her service isn't improving.

"I would not mind paying for good water. For stuff that you don't have to be on a boil notice for all of the time when you have children," says Snell.

TESI has requested two rates increases: The first was denied by PSC Commissioner Leonard Bentz, but that is under appeal to the State Supreme Court. The second rate increase Bentz approved. The bottom line is TESI's customers are facing new charges of about $10 a month.

Leaders with TESI and the PSC say the Katrina Relief Rate Hike is a temporary charge and that customers will see the charge on their bill for about two years.