Public Service Commission okays LAWCO water rate hike

Mansura Mayor Pickett upset by decision

Mansura Mayor Kenneth Pickett contends Public Service Commission members “set aside their oath of office to protect and serve” the people when they approved a rate increase for LAWCO on May 15.

Pickett attended the PSC meeting in Baton Rouge that day and had requested the commissioners give him 30 days to obtain additional information to argue against the rate increase. The PSC approved LAWCO’s “uncontested stipulated settlement” on a 4-0 vote with Lambert Boissiere III abstaining. Boissiere had unsuccessfully tried to have the decision postponed for 30 days.

LAWCO President Billy Edrington addressed the commission concerning Mansura’s complaints.

On the issue of LAWCO opting to retain the Town of Cottonport as the supplier for Mansura customers, Edrington said Cottonport is the cheapest source of water.

He also noted that Mansura comprises only 2 percent of LAWCO’s overall business, and as such would have minimal impact on the company’s overall request for a rate increase.

The rate increase request involved all water systems that LAWCO owns and operates.

RATE INCREASE

LAWCO contended the rate increase was necessary “due to the increased investments in utility plant, as well as the additional capital expenditures to protect our water supply.”

The rate increase raises the minimum charge for customers inside the corporate limits $1.60 more -- from $14.90 to $16.50 -- for the first 2,000 gallons and raises the amount for each additional 1,000 gallons from $3.07 to $3.60.

Customers outside of the town limits will pay $19.10 for the first 2,000 gallons, up from $17.06 and will pay the same for each additional 1,000 gallons as the in-town customers pay.

All other fees and rates remain the same.

Mansura officials have “requested” -- practically “demanded” -- LAWCO change suppliers to address water quality issues.

Pickett said he wanted the additional time to be able to get evidence that LAWCO “has and is still using trickery and deception to obtain this increase in rates.”

Pickett was particularly upset with comments from commissioners Foster Campbell and Mike Francis.

Campbell told Pickett that “just because it’s brown water doesn’t mean it’s not good water.”

Pickett said he is saving a glass of water for Campbell if he wants to visit Town Hall.

Francis, who represents the district including Avoyelles, also irked the mayor when he said Mansura’s concerns with water quality should be presented to the Department of Health & Hospitals, not the PSC.

“We regulate rates,” Francis said.

Pickett said Francis appeared to be saying the town had a health issue, but refused to delay acting on the rate increase for 30 days to receive additional information.

Pickett said he has “great respect” for Boissiere, who told his fellow commissioners that he is concerned about the quality of water in rural communities.

“To this gentleman I say thank you for your service and your integrity,” he added.

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