Liberty Utilities nearly doubles sewer bills for many East Texans

Liberty Utility customers may not have a rate spike on their sewer bill.

GRESHAM - East Texans using Liberty Utilities may experience a hefty spike in their sewer bills beginning in November.

The company mailed a notice of the proposed rate change this month detailing a two-phase sewer bill price hike which will nearly double the sewer bills for thousands.

Liberty Utilities

The first phase starts on Nov. 1. Phase two begins on March 1, 2017. Both phases together for the wastewater services increase will cost around $3 million.

A concerned resident in the Acadia addition in the Gresham area sent a letter to CBS19 expressing concern over what she considers an astronomical and absurd price increase.

"We currently pay $55.48 a month for sewer and the increase on March 1, 2017, and according to this proposed rate change, it will increase to $96.38 a month. This is a 42% increase," Melissa Jones wrote in an email to CBS19.

Jones said the increase is more than what her family pays for their other utility bills.

"This makes no sense and the letter only provides a non-substantial explanation," she said. "We understand utilities go up from time to time, but for this amount? Just for sewer? It didn't make sense."

After looking at the proposed rate change, CBS19 reached out to Liberty Utilities for answers.

Both the local office and the state differed all calls and questions to the Liberty Utilities location in Arizona.

Matthew Garlick, President of Liberty Utilities in Arizona, said these East Texas areas have not experienced a hike in sewer prices in 14 years, a non-so-common practice according to Garlick. He said this is one reason for a bigger increase at once instead of gradual. Increases usually occur every three to five years.

Still, those impacted by the rate change cannot see the justification.

“People are going to be moving. I just don’t understand how this is okay,” said Jill Chrietzberg, who is upset about her bill going up.

According to Garlick, the cost is due to the completion of the new waste water treatment plant.

“Upgrades have been made. That’s why you see the two phases,” Garlick said. “It’s being done in order to provide safe waste water service for our customers.”

However, Liberty Utilities customers in Tyler may not see a rate change.

Tyler City Council members are looking over the proposal and deciding if the increase is appropriate, according to development manager Gregory Morgan.

Those unhappy with the proposal can mail a letter of protest. Tyler residents must mail the forms to the office of the city manager located at 212 N. Boner Avenue. All others impacted by the rate increase must mail forms to the Public Utilities Commission office located at 1701 N. Congress Avenue in Austin.

Ratepayer Protest

According to the notice, if the commission receives 10 percent of the utility's customers prior to the ninety-first day after the proposed effective date, there will be a hearing.

"It clearly appears as though Liberty Utilities has acquired Tall Timbers and Woodmark to now monopolize the area, leaving residents and businesses to protest and fight the increase instead of proposing increases more ethically with the consideration of their customer's pocketbooks," Jones said in an email to CBS 19.

(© 2016 KYTX)


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