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Suburban water customers hire expert in rate dispute

Nov. 5, 2009

Suburbs facing a proposed 36% increase in the price of water they buy from Milwaukee are hiring a consultant to evaluate the city's proposal.

A report from the firm, Short Elliot Hendrickson, isn't expected until next year, Jim Wojcehowicz, Wauwatosa's water utility superintendent, said Thursday.

The report is estimated to cost $47,510.

Milwaukee is proposing rate increases of 28.5% for city residents and other retail customers and 36% for the 10 suburban communities with their own water utilities that buy Lake Michigan water wholesale.

The 10 communities have made formal objections to the state Public Service Commission, which would need to approve the rate request.

The communities are Wauwatosa, West Allis, New Berlin, Mequon, Brown Deer, Greendale, Shorewood, Thiensville, Butler and Menomonee Falls.

The city acknowledges that it is proposing the rate increases partly to generate money to support its general fund, rather than to merely support the water utility. The city points out that its rate of return, or profit, would be only 5.4%, well under the state's benchmark of 7.5%.

The suburbs say it is unreasonable for suburban residents to pay higher water rates to support Milwaukee's general fund, since they would see no benefits from more money for general city operations.

To see the City of Milwaukee's water rate increase request and related documents, go to www.psc.wi.gov and enter case number 3720 WR 107.

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