Summit Utilities customers voice concerns over proposed rate increase

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Summit Utilities is looking to raise its rates by nearly 30% this fall.

Almost two weeks ago, the company filed a rate increase with the Arkansas Public Safety Commission. If it is approved, a typical customer will be paying about $18.50 more a month. That change would not go into effect until November.

“[The increase] is largely driven by inflation, economic conditions and capital investments that we’ve made into our system within the last year,” Stephanie Sharp with Summit Utilities said.

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Sharp said the company has spent $155 million on investments in the last year to keep business running safely. She noted the rate increase would essentially act as a reimbursement for money already spent.

Summit said they have also added 300 employees. The company said the rate increase will help cover the cost of its increased customer service system.

“These folks that are literally right down the road, that live in your same neighborhood, and serve the same communities that you live in,” Sharp said.

The company sent a letter out to customers about the possible increase last week, even though the process could take up to 10 months.

“We just wanted to be as transparent as possible with our customers,” Sharp said.

Some customers said the letter was not a warm welcome.

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Frustrations over bills have been building over the last year ever since a problem with Summit’s data processing. Bills were sent out to customers that were hundreds more than they were expecting.

“One of the things that they are required to do is to make their bills reasonable, and so when they are unreasonable to us, as citizens, we need to make sure that they hear our voice,” customer Osyrus Bolly said.

Bolly said he is working on getting a group together to fight against the rate increase proposal.

He said customers need to attend public meetings and hearings in the next 10 months to share their concerns about the rate increase.

“That’s dollars that you are taking out of your grocery bill, dollars that you are taking out of your transportation, out of other bills,” Bolly said.

He said every dollar counts in today’s economy.

“If you make an investment in a failing industry, that’s on you, not the customers,” Bolly said.

Summit said it is doing what it can to provide a safe and reliable service to its customers and said it takes money to do so.

The company’s CEO noted that Summit still has some of the lowest rates in the area.

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The rate increase process will take about 10 months. If it is approved by the APSC, customers will see changes on their bill in November.

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