After rate hikes not approved, MLGW hopes for ‘storm-free summer’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If spring 2019 is a stormy one, there could be many power outages in Shelby County, especially in certain areas of the county.

Memphis City Council Members already rejected most rate increases requested by MLGW and MLGW officials came to city council with a mission Tuesday morning: to remind members about the ramifications of not approving their budget for this year.

“Both the budget as we had presented originally and the five-year rate options were all rejected,” MLGW employees said.

Council members didn’t want to raise prices on customers.

MLGW asked for nearly $400 million, but only $350 million got approved. That means they had to figure out where to cut proposed spending.

Now the utility isn’t hiring for new positions, they’re doing less tree trimming, and they’re cutting overtime.

“I will tell everyone we’ve had a lot of rain, so grounds are saturated, and were going to have some more tree issues,” MLGW CEO J.T. Young said.

Those issues are exactly what Council member Martavious Jones said he was worried about. Jones requested MLGW present data with a map showing the average length of outages by ZIP code.

The red areas including Whitehaven and Frayser, are four times more affected by outages than the green areas, like Downtown.

Outages by minutes by zip code in Shelby County. Map from MLGW

“Instead of making emotional decisions, let’s make data-driven decisions,” Jones said.

That information has the MLGW CEO hoping for one forecast in particular.

“Candidly, right now, I’m just praying for a relatively storm-free summer,” Yonng said.

Young said MLGW will still react when necessary, but they can’t be as proactive in preventing outages.

Councilman Worth Morgan voted against the rate hikes in 2019. He said Tuesday he did that because he did not think the hikes were high enough and thus would not be effective. He noted poorer neighborhoods will be disproportionately impacted by the tree trimming reduction since affluent neighborhoods can hire tree trimming services.

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