MLGW hopes equipment holds out after council rejects increases

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Light Gas & Water will enter 2019 without a new budget and no increases in utility rates after a City Council vote Tuesday.

Council members will try again in two weeks, but it will impact those who use the utility, like Doris Warfield.

Warfield takes care of her mom at their Whitehaven home, but she’s on oxygen and the power keeps going out.

"I don’t think their infrastructure has worked in years because there are constant power outages here,” she said.

MLGW President J.T. Young knows this is a problem and went to City Council in October to propose small rate hikes next year to pay for improvements.

Those average around $5.47 for electricity, $1.79 for gas and $2.52 for water.

"Outage minutes will not get better on their own, won’t get better because equipment won’t get better, unless we actually make the investments to improve those,” Young said.

But council rejected MLGW’s proposal Tuesday night by a vote of seven to three.

"My real issue is some of the antiquated benefit structure,” said Councilman Kemp Conrad, who voted against it.

He says MLGW could free up money without raising rates, if it re-did the way it handles employee health insurance and other benefits.

"I’m not sure you should get a benefit in perpetuity when you work somewhere for 10 years and then you can live a long time and your dependents get health insurance. It costs a lot of money," Conrad said.

MLGW officials say they are working on that and will try to reach a compromise, but in the meantime all they can do is hope and pray the equipment holds out.

Warfield wants them to do more than that.

"If they can come up with something in between the two, then yeah, because we really need the stuff fixed.”

Council members say they plan to meet with MLGW staff in the next week to see if they can find a compromise. But they couldn’t say if that would happen by the next meeting in early January.

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