Leslie Turk

Up for intro, LUS rate hike gets chamber backing

by Leslie Turk

Lafayette Utilities System's proposed 15 percent rate hike, which the utility says is necessary for upgrades and reliability, is scheduled to be formally introduced to the council this afternoon. If it survives today's introduction by the Durel administration, the increase will be voted on Dec. 15.

Yesterday the proposal won the support of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, but the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee issued a statement of opposition.

In taking the action in support of the increase, the chamber noted:
- That LUS is a robust and successful entity is a result of visionary leadership that is a century old. That leadership has always prepared for the future by anticipating growth and what it would take to remain successful. That successful leadership has always made prudent decisions, beneficial recommendations and fruitful investments.
- That the bond covenants stipulate that the rates would be set at such a level that the system is ensured the financial investment that the citizens of Lafayette deserve.
- That failure to adequately maintain this citizen-owned utility system would eventually cost more in the long run to retrofit. This modest increase would keep future rate increases at bay.
- That failure to maintain this utility system at optimum levels would negatively impact the quality of life for which Lafayette is recognized.
- That the rate increase combined with the current cost of fuel will amount to a standstill bill to customers in 2010. An increase of four to five dollars per month is anticipated for 2011.
- That the rate increase would provide a financial match for the much needed $11 million federal stimulus Smart Grid initiative grant.
- That Lafayette Utilities System is held in the highest regard in the business community in that it returns the people’s investment in it with profits that fund essential citizen needs.
- That Lafayette seeks to perpetuate its tradition as a Community of Innovators and this system is worthy of its recognition as an innovative and forward looking enterprise. The community cannot sit still while progressive cities take pro-active measures to compete in a global economy.

According to today's Advocate, the Democratic commmittee's position is in line with most council members who fear an increase at this time will burden small business and families (though the impact of the increase won't likely be felt till 2011). The committee also argues that LUS should be able to keep some of the $18 million it pays annually to parish government. This in lieu of tax payment is what a private utility would pay if it served Lafayette Parish.