Liberty Utilities customers see rate hike in Tyler, Smith County

Liberty Utilities customers see price hike in Tyler, Smith County

SMITH COUNTY - Paying a utility bill is unavoidable, and some in Smith County will see a hefty spike in bills come Sept. 1. A judge approved Liberty Utilities' interim rates for customers in Tyler and the county as part of a three-phase price hike.

After a year-long fight between the City of Tyler, Liberty Utilities and their customers, those inside the city limits will see the highest increase.

Tyler City Manager Edward Broussard said while the rate increase is lower than what Liberty Utilities wanted, it’s still higher than he hoped.

"I wouldn't say I'm happy with the outcome,” he said.

In December, the president of Liberty Utilities over Arizona and Texas, Matthew Garlick, said rate adjustments were based off customer's needs.

To justify the rate increase, Garlick gave CBS19 a tour of the new Woodmark Wastewater Treatment plant. The cost of the expansion would be $3.45 million – a reason for the rate increase.

Customers tell CBS19 they fought long and hard to keep rates down.

More than 1,000 protests were submitted to the Public Utility Commission of Texas from customers outside the city limits. Meanwhile, the city was putting up its own fight.

"We looked for technicalities, and we were able to call Liberty Utilities on that a couple of times in order to push them back for refiling, where they had to start the process over again,” Broussard said.

One thing he said the city battled was not having any more increases from Liberty Utilities until after 2020 -- if rates went up at all.

Even with a 52 percent reduction from the asking rate, Broussard said he'd like to see the prices come down. 

The city of Tyler has not seen an increase in their utility bills since 2003. Broussard said infrastructure needed updates, but still, these prices are higher than he hoped.

Within the city of Tyler, there are 113 Liberty Utility connections. Jack Elementary is the only one that's non-residential.

CBS19 reached out to Tyler ISD for comment on how this would impact them, but we never heard back.

Customers in Tall Timbers (inside the city) currently pay $27.75. By 2019, that price jumps to $65.60. Customers in Tall Timbers (outside the city) currently pay $54.93. By 2019, that price jumps to $65.60. Woodmark customers pay $66.92. They will see the smallest increase overall, ending at $90.53.

© 2017 KYTX-TV


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