LAUREL – The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) wants to increase the flow of information about the new rate structure. At a special meeting on Aug. 15, where consultants retained by WSSC were expected to present specific rate structure options for the commissioners to begin deliberating, the appointed board instead chose to pause the process […]
LAUREL – The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) wants to increase the flow of information about the new rate structure.
At a special meeting on Aug. 15, where consultants retained by WSSC were expected to present specific rate structure options for the commissioners to begin deliberating, the appointed board instead chose to pause the process in order to gather more information and communicate more with stakeholders. At the previous meeting, the commissioners had expressed similar reservations, but did proceed with ranking their policy priorities for the new structure. Chair Thomasina Rogers, who is a Prince George’s County appointee, said the issue was complex and deserved further scrutiny before moving ahead.
“It is not a list of things from which we choose and prioritize. It is a little bit more complicated than that. It is how these things all intersect,” she said. “My comfort level is not very great at this point that we have before us the type of information that would equip us to answer those questions.”
Among Rogers’ concerns was the fact that the rate structure design process was very information-heavy and the commission’s elected partners in Prince George’s and Montgomery County may not have received the type of briefings the WSSC board had. Also on her mind was the upcoming change to WSSC’s billing system, which will have to be compatible with whatever new structure is chosen. She also said questions lingered about the affordability of the current rate structure. Commissioner Omar Boulware agreed.
“I certainly want to get a better understanding of how our ratepayers feel about our current rates, in terms of affordability,” he said. “I don’t think it’s enough for me to feel comfortable or ready with making decisions regarding our future rate structure.”
Commission Vice Chair Eloise Foster also felt more information was needed from the consultants, included comparisons with other water utilities of similar size operating in the same climate as the Washington metropolitan region.
“I’m not trying to get into reinventing the wheel here, but as I thought about this I think that this commission really should be focused on putting into place a rate structure that is focused on existing rate structures that have proven successful, that represent best practices and represent best in class,” Foster said.
WSSC General Manager Carla Reid said her staff was committed to providing the commissioners with whatever information they needed, but said while the delay in presenting the rate structures was understandable, it could not last too long due to the Public Service Commission ruling declaring WSSC’s current rate structure is discriminatory against large households.
“Just because of the complexity of the entire issue and all that has to be considered, I want to make sure that you have all that you need, the proper recommendations, to make a good decision because this impacts everybody,” Reid said. “At the same time, I do want to keep in front of us that we must keep moving forward as well, because time is of the essence. This is not a decision that can be left to indefinite deliberation.”
Commissioner Howard Denis pointed out that the commission, and region, is uniquely positioned right now to get something as big as the rate structure change accomplished.
“The challenge is that this hasn’t been done for 25 years at WSSC,” he said. “In all of my observations of WSSC at every different level of government at totally different capacities, I’ve never seen a time when commissioners got along better. I’ve never seen a time when our county executives got along better, or our county councils. So I think that we are ideally situated to come out of this in a good way.”