MLGW asking for rate increases to help improve service

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- MLGW officials presented their 2019 budget to Memphis city council members for the first time Tuesday morning. They requested rate increases in all three utility categories.

They showed pictures of what they said illustrated the dire need for repair of MLGW’s old and ailing water, electric and gas infrastructure.

“MLGW gave us a five-year forecast, not just this year but for rate increases going forward," Councilman Worth Morgan said.

The utility company suggested rate increases in 2019 and 2021, with no increases in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

Starting in 2019, the utility company wanted to raise electricity rates by an average of $5.47 and then another $2.49 in 2021.

Officials suggested raising gas rated by an average of $1.79 in 2019 and $1.56 in 2021.

They also suggested raising water rates by an average of $2.52 in 2019 and $2.95 in 2021.

“The burden of proof is on MLGW to show the need for it,” Morgan said.

MLGW officials said the outdated infrastructure for all utilities necessitates the updates now.

They pointed to outages from storms and decaying pipes that showed the need for upgrades system-wide.

“Each year we put it off is making it a little worse and were gonna have to put up with more outages as time goes on so the question is why wait?” Morgan said.

But he also said they worried about scaring away industrial companies who consume a large amount of utilities as well as hurting customers on a fixed income.

He said they’ll use the next six weeks to hopefully find a compromise and pass a budget by the end of the year.

MLGW officials also said they have the lowest utility rates in Tennessee and most other major U.S. cities.