Franklin utility customers taking charge following rate hikes - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Franklin utility customers taking charge following rate hikes

FRANKLIN, TN (WSMV) -

Whether it's water, electricity, cable or sewage, many people have been complaining lately about what seem to be random spikes in their bills.

Now, one community is joining together and taking some unusual steps to do something about it.

Berry's Chapel sewer utility customer Russ Roach said he's been happily living in the Franklin community for the past 26 years.

But when brothers John and Tyler Ring bought the utility, Roach said, things changed.

"It's just been a nightmare ever since," Roach said.

For the past few years, residents have been complaining about random rate hikes and fees without any explanation.

"Oh, the rates, they just go crazy, and they threw all kinds of fees in with no approval from anybody," Roach said.

The utility customers are now taking over the company by appointing a new board and president. It's essentially an attempt at a sewage utility coup.

"You've got a nonprofit. Anybody that's a ratepayer, it takes 10 percent of us in the ratepayers to call a meeting and things change," said newly appointed board member Bill Goodwin.

The attorney for the utility company says, "The company doesn't determine the rates. The rates are determined by the [Tennessee Regulatory Authority] after an extensive analysis of the company's finances. We don't believe bringing on a new board will change the rates."

But with two boards thinking they're in charge, this will likely play out in court.

"Everybody lawyers up," Goodwin said.

Goodwin said his side will keep fighting, and he is encouraging others all over the Midstate to do the same.

"If you don't get involved, then you don't have a right to complain," he said.

The Tennessee Regulatory Authority has to approve rate hikes at any and all utility districts across the state.

They can and do step in if utility companies try to charge more than customers are willing to pay. In fact, they did that in the Berry's Chapel case.

These aren't the only residents fed up and taking action. Last month, hundreds of Clarksville Department of Electricity started a Facebook campaign to protest unusually high electric bills there. CDE held a special meeting to address their concerns.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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