Rates may be going up for Huntsville Utility customers

You may soon have to pay more for your utilities.

Huntsville Utilities wants approval to raise rates by 3.5%.

Utility officials presented their proposal Thursday night in front of Huntsville City Council members.

At a 3.5% rate increase, on average your Huntsville utility bill would go up about $4.90 a month; bringing your year total to $58.83.

For people like Rena Russell, retired and on a fixed income, the numbers are just too high to bare.

"People like me who get "x" amount of money per month, really and truly if it wasn't for my children helping out I couldn't pay what I am paying now." said Russell

The President of Huntsville Utilities, William Pippin went before city council members as a first attempt to convince them that a rate hike is necessary.

"It's been nine years since we have had any type of rate increase." said Pippin.

In those nine years, Huntsville Utilities has grown to serve 164,000 customers and there is a need for construction on a stronger network of sub-stations and transmissions lines.

Pippin added, since 2008, Huntsville Utilities has been pulling from reserves to operate because costs are exceeding revenues.

Though, back in April, the company discovered an error in billing that cost $37 million owed to TVA.

"When the $37 million error was made, all the customers got billed correctly; the only person that did not get all of their money was TVA." Pippin told council members.

He said the rate hike is totally separate from the error.

"How would that rate increase help to cut down the power outages?" asked Councilman Bill Kling.

"Part of that money we will get is going to go back into getting more tree trimming crews to do that." responded Pippin.

"All I'm trying to get at is that we are covering all of it, new construction is great but if we are not taking care of the old stuff and upgrading it, are we doing everything we can do now." asked Council member John Olshefski.

And considering people who are on fixed incomes in a down economy, WAFF asked Pippin if a rate hike could be bad timing.

"It may not be good but we don't have any other choice." He responded.

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