FOX 8 Defenders: Sharp water bill increases an unwelcome surprise on North Shore

FOX 8 Defenders: Water bills spike on the North Shore

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - For months, thousands of homeowners on the North Shore have faced utility bills that have doubled and in some cases tripled.

In Abita Springs, John Ventola pays a lot more for his water and wastewater these days compared to just a year ago.

"We're very clean people, but come on. And the bill was $137 when I had been paying $40 a month, basically.

The Arrow Wood Estates homeowner is not alone.

"It doubled, and I'm just one person in the household," said Rob Logan. "I can maintain and control my consumption so I've cut way back, and it's still very high."

The FOX 8 Defenders have also heard from concerned residents in Crestwood Estates and Normandy Oaks, and many have signed a petition against the increases.

Utilities Inc., which supplies at least 8,000 customers in St. Tammany, issued a notice nearly a year ago alerting residents that their rates would be going up. Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta's office tells FOX 8 that mandates from the Department of Health and Hospitals and DEQ forced water systems to make infrastructure improvements.

"The increase in revenue will cover the money that has been spent on system improvements – including 21 new sewage lift stations in St. Tammany - and the increased costs of doing business," said Don Sudduth, president of Utilities Inc.

Sudduth also stressed that many customers haven't seen a rate hike since 1999.

Despite rate increases, Logan and Ventola complain their services are still lacking.

"We had a town hall meeting, and Mr. Skrmetta and his staff attended, and he was very responsive to all of our concerns," Ventola said. "We've asked him to at least make some concessions."

The Public Service Commission is expected to take up a measure Wednesday to phase in rate increases over three years. If the commissioners approve the plan, the PSC said it would begin this summer.

Another request before the commission seeks levelized billing for customers - especially seniors.

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