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MoDad Utilities issues short-lived rate decrease, provides update

7 months 4 weeks 1 day ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 January 18, 2019 5:35 PM January 18, 2019 in News
Source: WBRZ

DENHAM SPRINGS - About 8,000 utility customers got a letter in the mail last month explaining that their rates are going down, but the change is short-lived.

Sewer company Modad Utilities was approved for a rate hike in 2017 after promising much-needed repairs would be implemented. However, a financial deal fell through and the company had to start over. While MoDad says it has likely secured a new partner, the rates had to be lowered while new paperwork is filed with the Public Service Commission.

The letter says it's been preparing for a major improvement project with a January 2019 start date.

"The project is delayed a little bit," said MoDad Utilities COO William Stegall. "We're hoping that we'll still be able to move forward with the process with the new finance partners."

MoDad has been working with various agencies to upgrade its sewer treatment facilities. Many of the facilities were found to have violations by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. When MoDad first absorbed the treatment facilities, many of them were in disrepair or have become outdated. It needs to get a loan to fund the mandated construction projects needed to be compliant with LDEQ regulations. Some of that work has already been done.

"I think our operations has improved significantly, we've got a lot more systems in place to handle field issues," said Stegall.

Some customers who received the letter in December feared they were being overcharged, but Stegall tells 2 On Your Side that it does not anticipate any refunds and no customers have been overcharged.

While the improvements continue, some people still have concerns over the company's customer service. Taylor Persilver lives in the Pine Meadows subdivision in Denham Springs and reached out to 2 On Your Side about her concerns.

"They need to fix their customer service if they want to keep their customers," she said.

Persilver tells WBRZ she often does not receive a bill in the mail and does not know when to make a payment. Instead, she received a note on her door threatening her service will be disconnected. Persilver also lives in a neighborhood with a newer sewer system and doesn't like the idea of her rates going up to pay for improvements in other neighborhoods.

"We were told our pumping station is newer," she said. "So we have to pay for everybody else as well?"

While there is a bit of a delay in construction, MoDad says the ratepayer will be much happier with the major project once it gets going. The rates will go back up once the financier is in place. MoDad has requested the same previously-approved rate increase since not much has changed in the major construction estimate, which is about $17 million. MoDad says the project will take about three years to finish.

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