altWith a new round of Aqua Virginia rate hikes on the horizon, the Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) is moving fast to minimize the impact on area residents.

Within 24 hours of learning about Aqua’s proposed 7.4 percent rate increase, the LMOA Board of Directors voted to form an ad hoc committee to organize the community’s response. Board President Rich Barringer will serve as liaison to the committee. Former Board member Mike Harrison will serve as committee chair. 

About 15 members of the community met with Harrison at Fairway Clubhouse Thursday night (Sept. 14) to learn more about the plan of attack and decide if they wanted to join the committee.

“The chances of us eliminating the rate increase is exactly zero, but we can probably reduce it,” Harrison said.

Aqua’s rate case brings back the water and wastewater infrastructure service charge (WWISC), which was denied by the State Corporation Committee (SCC) in 2015. The additional charge, which could be as high as 10 percent of the average customer bill, would be used to fund capital improvements. Harrison said he believes the community can fight the implementation of WWISC.

Harrison outlined the series of steps the committee will have to take between now and May 2018.

By law, Aqua has to publish notice of the rate hike in newspapers by Oct. 10 and mail notices to customers by Nov. 10. The committee will be paying close attention to these two dates “because that’s what we can nail them on,” in future hearings and testimony, Harrison said.

The hearing will take place April 26, 2018, but Harrison made it clear there is a lot of work to be done in the meantime.
The committee will serve as respondents in the case, will comb through Aqua’s SCC filings for arguments, and work to develop exhibits and coordinate testimony at the hearings. They will also work to educate residents using social media and other communication channels.

Harrison said he believes there’s a good chance Aqua will hold a local meeting before the hearing in Richmond. He also said the committee may be able to get John Aulbach, president of Aqua Virginia, to hold a town meeting. 

While the SCC will not decide Aqua’s case until well after the April 2018 hearings, Harrison said that Aqua customers will see the rate increase hit their bills in February. Under the new rate schedule, the average household using 3,200 gallons per month will see its bill increase from $118.61 to $127.38.