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Housatonic Water Works proposed settlement in rate case not a done deal

Town Manager Mark Pruhenski wrote in a statement posted on the Great Barrington town website that, despite media reports to the contrary, the case has not been settled.

Great Barrington — A potential settlement in the rate-increase request by Housatonic Water Works is not a done deal.

The settlement, which was filed with the Department of Public Utilities on Friday, April 26, was created by Housatonic Water Works attorneys and the Office of the Attorney General.

Town Manager Mark Pruhenski wrote in a statement posted on the Great Barrington town website that, despite media reports to the contrary, the case has not been settled. “Great Barrington, along with Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, is an intervening party in the case,” Pruhenski wrote. “The towns were granted intervenor status by the DPU in September of 2023 after filing petitions to intervene in the case, which was begun in the summer of 2023. Although the towns participated in discussions with the other parties regarding options for resolving the rate increase request by means of a settlement, the towns did not sign on to the proposal that was submitted to the DPU.”

Pruhenski explained that what has been filed with the DPU is a motion for approval of a settlement agreement. “None of the intervening towns signed on to the motion,” Pruhenski wrote. “For Great Barrington, the Selectboard could not ‘endorse’ the amount and terms of the rate increase proposed for the Company. Under the applicable rate case procedure, the motion is subject to the approval of the DPU, which must review the terms of the proposed settlement and issue a written decision. The deadline for that approval is stated in the motion is August 1.”

Back in late June 2023, HWW filed an application with the Department of Public Utilities requesting a 112.7 percent overall revenue increase. The request reflects an $808,808 increase over the existing water rates.

This has led to protests by residents who attended a DPU hearing back in late September, along with town leaders in Great Barrington, Stockbridge, and West Stockbridge, who all spoke against the proposed increase to the DPU.

According to the proposed settlement agreement, “As an alternative to a fully litigated rate case, the Settling Parties agree to reduce the company’s proposed base distribution rate increase of $808,808 to $211,222 and to implement rate increases in phases. The Settling Parties agree that the company’s revenue requirement is $928,882, an increase of $211,222 or 29.43 percent over currently effective rates.”

The settlement would also include a capital project list, including a manganese filter system, an interconnection with the Great Barrington Fire District, a new water storage tank, and a main replacement.

If approved by the DPU, the rate increase would be implemented in five phases: Phase one would include an 18 percent increase in customer rates on August 1; phase two would include a 39.68 percent increase over phase one rates and would be implemented on August 1, 2025; phase three would be effective on August 1, 2026 and include a 7.33 percent rate increase; phase four would be effective August 1, 2027 and would include a 13.47 percent increase over phase 3 rates; and phase five would be effective on August 1, 2028 and would include a 12.51 percent increase over phase four rates. 

In total, if approved by the DPU, HWW customer rates would be increased by over 90 percent over five years.

Click here for the proposed HWW and Attorney General settlement.

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