FAIRBANKS — Golden Heart Utilities customers could face double-digit rate increases for water and sewer service if a plan being reviewed by state regulators is approved next month.
Fairbanks Sewer and Water, which is the parent company for both GHU and College Utilities, last week asked the state to approve an interim rate hike for its 6,500 GHU customers. Starting Aug. 1, GHU wants to increase water rates by 11.8 percent and sewer rates by 15.9 percent.
Tiffany Van Horn, the director of administration for the utilities, said higher rates are needed to pay for increased operating expenses, to repair an aging water and sewer infrastructure, and to offset gradually declining water consumption among its customers.
The last rate increase for GHU customers was on Sept. 1, 2009.
The request for an interim rate increase is part of a long-term goal to bring uniform rates to Fairbanks-area water and sewer customers, Van Horn said.
GHU has lower rates than the 2,200 customers with College Utilities, which is the other major supplier of water and sewer services in the Fairbanks area. By next summer, Fairbanks Sewer and Water wants to establish a new permanent rate structure that would bring both utilities into alignment.
Van Horn said that plan, called a “postage stamp rate design,” would create identical rates for each customer class with both GHU and College Utilities. She said the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, which oversees utilities in the state, has pushed for the change in recent years.
“It was one of the things the commission ordered us to go to,” she said.
The “permanent” rate hike being sought would ultimately boost GHU water rates by 12.9 percent and sewer by 17.2 percent from the current rates, starting on June 30, 2012. College Utilities rates would increase by 2.7 percent for water and 4.8 percent for sewer.
The RCA needs to approve both the interim and permanent rate hike requests. Van Horn said an RCA decision is expected on the interim rate hike by July 31. A decision on the permanent rate change isn’t anticipated until sometime in 2012.
Comments on the rate proposals must be submitted to the RCA by July 25. Comments may be mailed to RCA, 701 West 8th Ave., Suite 300, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, or sent by e-mail to http://rca.alaska.gov. The docket numbers for the filings are TA46-290 and TA51-118.
Fairbanks Sewer and Water is a subsidiary of Corix Utilities, a British Columbia-based corporation that purchased it from a group of local investors in 2009, after previously buying a 50 percent stake in 2004. The utilities were formerly run by the city of Fairbanks, which privatized its water and sewer operations in 1995.