Switch To WRUD Meant Lower Rates, Better Service For Water Customers, Lone Oak Utility District Commissioner Says

Base Rate 40 Percent Lower, No Rate Increase Since 2015, Nancy Craig Tells Signal Officials

Sunday, March 11, 2018 - by Judy Frank
It’s been more than two years since the Lone Oak Utility District ended its relationship with Tennessee American Water Company, according to a member of LOUD’s board of commissioners.

Since then, the switch to Walden’s Ridge Utility District has meant a “substantial improvement in the management and operation of its water system,” Commissioner Nancy Craig said, including “a substantial reduction in water rates (reducing the base rate 40 percent).”

“Our customers thanked us,” she reported in a letter to the town of Signal Mountain.


Commissioner Craig’s letter was delivered on the eve of the long-anticipated unveiling of proposals from bidders interested in either buying or managing Signal’s water system, scheduled to happen Monday night during the Signal council’s regular monthly meeting.

Proposals reportedly have been submitted by both WRUD and TAWC.

In her letter, which she said was written after the board was asked to provide a reference for WRUD, Commissioner Craig said WRUD began providing operation and maintenance services for LOUD in November 2015.

“At the same time,” she said, “LOUD began purchasing water from (WRUD) . . . Before November of 2015, the LOUD was managed by . . . TAWC.”

Since WRUD took over, she said, the utility and its customers have been the beneficiaries of substantial improvements, including:

·       LOUD customers have received a substantial reduction in water rates (reducing the base rate 40 percent).

·       LOUD has not had an increase in water rates since 2015. Before November of 2015, LOUD experienced increases from TAWC.

·       Customer service by WRUD has proved to be much better for LOUD customers than that experienced with TAWC. WRUD’s office is located near the LOUD service area so our customers easily get personal customer service from WRUD personnel . . . In contrast, TAWC did not have a local office or presence in the community . . . LOUD customers had a call a New Jersey call-center for customer service issues.

·       Because WRUD is a government entity, all of its board meetings are open to the public and can be attended by LOUD customers. Our customers did not have this option when the water system was managed by TAWC. All of the records of WRUD are open to public inspection; the records of TAWC are not.

Hopefully, Commissioner Craig said, the information provided by LOUD will assist Signal officials in their efforts to determine the fate of the town’s municipal water system.

“We realize this is an important decision and trust our letter will be of help in evaluating the services of each utility,” she concluded.

The full text of Commissioner Craig’s letter reads:

Re: Walden’s Ridge Utility District

To Town of Signal Mountain, Tennessee:

The Board of Commissioners for Lone Oak Utility District (LOUD) has been asked to provide a reference for Walden’s Ridge Utility District. In November of 2015, Walden’s Ridge Utility District (WRUD) began providing operation and maintenance services for the LOUD water system. At the same time LOUD began purchasing water from Walden’s Ridge Utility District.

LOUD has been very pleased with the services provided by Walden’s Ridge Utility District.

Before November of 2015, the LOUD was managed by Tennessee American Water Company (TAWC).

LOUD has experienced a substantial improvement in the management and operation of its water system since hiring Walden’s Ridge Utility District.

The following changes and improvements to the LOUD water system have occurred under its agreement with Walden’s Ridge Utility District. Since that time, LOUD has experienced the following:

·       LOUD customers have received a substantial reduction in water rates (reducing the base rate 40%). Our customers thanked us.

·       LOUD has not had an increase in water rates since 2015. Before November of 2015, LOUD experienced increases from TAWC.

·       Customer service by WRUD has proved to be much better for LOUD customers than experienced with TAWC. WRUD’s office is located near the LOUD service area so our customers easily get personal customer service assistance from WRUD personnel. WRUD personnel are easy to reach by phone.

·       In contrast, TAWC did not have a local office or presence in the community so personal customer service contact was difficult and burdensome. LOUD customers had to call into a New Jersey call-center for customer service issues.

·       WRUD maintains a dedicated phone line for LOUD customers, and WRUD staff is responsive to customer service calls on this line.

·       The WRUD board of commissioners and staff have been responsive to calls and emails from the LOUD board about the operation of its water system. The LOUD board experienced long delays and a lack of cooperation by TAWC in getting vital information related to the LOUD system such a customer names and addresses and water loss information required for the LOUD annual audit.

·       At no expense, WRUD has provided the LOUD board a large meeting room for its board meetings and customer meetings.

·       At no expense, WRUD has hosted board member training for LOUD and other utility commissioners in the area provided by the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts. TAWC never offered to provide similar services.

·       LOUD has benefited greatly from having a governmental entity like WRUD managing and operating its system. Decisions are made and implemented in the community served by LOUD. All decisions about the LOUD system are made by the WRUD board of commissioners. WRUD does not have to go up a corporate ladder to make and implements decisions for LOUD.

·       Because WRUD is a governmental entity, all of its board meetings are open to the public and can be attended by LOUD customers. Our customers did not have this option when the water system was managed by TAWC. All of the records of WRUD are open to public inspection; the records of TAWC are not.

·       WRUD is a non-profit, governmental entity. Unlike TAWC, WRUD does not have shareholders. WRUD uses its revenues and assets solely to provide water services as economically as possible for its customers. WRUD is not required to earn a rate of return on its investment in its water utility facilities. WRUD does not have to be concerned about its stock price and shareholder dividends.

·       WRUD is subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of the Utility Management Review Board (UMRB). LOUD has found the UMRB to be responsive to the concerns of its board members and customers. While TAWC is subject to regulation by the Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC), LOUD’s experience with complaints to TPUC was one of non-responsiveness.

We realize this is an important decision and trust our letter will be of help in evaluating the services of each utility.

Regards,

Nancy Craig, Commissioner

Lone Oak Utility District



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