Update: Officials explain reports of "additional" rate hike requests in Martin County

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INEZ, Ky. (AP) - Just five months after the Kentucky Public Service Commission approved a rate increase, a troubled water district is asking for another one to stave off financial collapse.

News outlets report Martin County Water District officials asked the commission for an increase of about 18 percent Tuesday. The district had applied for an increase of nearly 50 percent for its 3,500 customers in January, but was granted a 17.5 percent increase and 10 percent surcharge in March.

Martin County Water Board Treasurer Jimmy Kerr says the request makes him "ill" because of the financial impact on customers, but says it's necessary "to give the people of Martin County the water system they want."

No decision has been made.

The district's management is under investigation by Attorney General Andy Beshear.

UPDATE:

The people of Martin County are still experiencing water woes. Troubles not only from their faucets but their pockets as well.

In January amid efforts to restore water service to hundreds of customers the Martin County Water District requested a 49.6% rate increase. Shortly after announcing the water district os $8000,000 in debt.

In March the Public Service Commission granted the water district a 26.5% percent emergency rate increase. A percentage of that increase includes a nearly $5 surcharge officials say will be used specifically to pay the water district's debt.

"That emergency rate increase was just a temporary thing until the PSC rules on the 49% request," said Martin County Water District Secretary John Hensley.

An emergency increase Hensley says has enabled the water district to keep functioning and make small improvements.

"With everything that we have and with the system in such bad shape it is a miracle we are doing as well with what we have," said Hensley. "The citizens of Martin County do deserve good water. And I do believe that we are providing good water."

Since receiving the emergency increase Hensley says the public has been receiving misinformation regarding rate hikes.

"It was printed in the papers that we received a couple of rate increases. But yet the only rate increase we have received is the temporary one," explained Hensley.

Public Service Commission's Public Information Officer Andrew Melnykovych said, "the water district has not asked for an additional rate increase. They are still asking for the 49% rate hike they originally requested."

When asked why there has been so much confusion Melnkovych said, "It is a matter of semantics. Yes, the water district asking for more than the emergency rate increase of 26.5%. But they asked for it in their original request of the 49.6% increase in January."

Hensley says he fears what may happen if that increase is not granted.

"The water district will be shut down," said Hensley.

Leading the PSC to institute a receivership.

"I know there are a few people petitioning for a receivership. But what most people do not realize is a receivership can come in and charge whatever they want to make sure that company is operating to make a profit," said Hensley.

Hensley went on to say, "All the members on this board now are Mountain Water District Customers and are dedicated to providing good service and good water to Martin County."

The Public Service Commission has set the Martin County Water District's next hearing for later this month.



 
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