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Public to get say on water rate hike

Customers of Kentucky American Water can sound off about higher water bills at a public meeting Tuesday in Lexington.

The state Public Service Commission, which regulates more than 1,500 utilities in the state, will take comments from the public at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Bryan Station High School's auditorium at 201 Eastin Road on a proposed settlement in the water company's request for a rate increase.

"This meeting will allow the commission to hear directly from the public as it prepares to decide whether to accept the settlement put forward by the company and the other parties to the case," chairman David Armstrong said in a statement.

The Lexington-based water company had sought to increase its annual revenue by about $18.5 million, or about 31 percent.

That would have increased the average monthly residential bill by about $7.

Late last month, the water company and the office of Attorney General Jack Conway negotiated a proposed settlement to allow the company to increase annual revenue by $10.3 million.

Under that arrangement, an average residential customer would see an increase of about $3.80 in the monthly bill.

Other parties in the settlement were Community Action Council for Lexington and Fayette County, Bourbon, Harrison and Nicholas Counties Inc. and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

Kentucky American Water said in its application for the rate hike that it needs more money to meet increased operating costs and to pay for system improvements.

It said improvements include a 20-million-gallon-a-day water treatment plant being built on the Kentucky River in Owen County and a 31-mile underground pipeline from that plant to Fayette County. The total project is expected to cost $162 million.

People at Tuesday's public meeting may comment on the settlement. The amount of time they can speak might be limited, depending on the number of people who want to speak.

Written comments will be accepted at the meeting or can be mailed to the Public Service Commission at P.O. Box 615, Frankfort, Ky. 40602, faxed to (502) 564-9625 or e-mailed at the PSC Web site, www.psc.ky.gov.

The PSC will hold a hearing in the case at 10 a.m. April 14 at its Frankfort office. The hearing will be open to the public, but there will be only limited opportunity for public comments. Written comments will be accepted through the conclusion of the hearing.

Kentucky American's last rate increase, in December 2007, ended in a settlement with the state attorney general. The company had requested a 29 percent increase but got a 17 percent increase.

Kentucky American serves about 117,000 customers in Fayette and nine nearby counties.

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