WILKES-BARRE -- 2.3 million customers of a water utility company could be paying more money on their monthly bills. However, in order to go through with its rate hike, Pennsylvania American Water has to hear from its customers.
Customers were speaking out on Tuesday at King's College in Wilkes-Barre about the utility company's proposed rate hike.
Christopher Visco is a customer from Scranton. He said the hike hurts rate payers.
"We don't have the jobs. We don't have the income say of a major metropolitan area. This is a struggling town and everyone just seems to think they can keep increasing our costs and for us to be able to pay it, which is not the case," Visco said.
The average customers would have to pay $113 more each year on their water bills if the increase is approved, which is about $9.50 a month.
"Don't do it all in one shot, spread it out over a couple of years make the paying a little easier for people to be able to adjust to over time," Visco said.
Those with the utility company said this is the first rate hike in four years. Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre said the increase is needed to make sure water flows safely and reliably.
"It's hard to say we need the kind of increase that we need, but we need it to be able to keep investing in the system to make sure that they continue to be safe and reliable," McIntyre said.
The proposed changes need to be approved by a panel of judges from Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission. Judges will hear from customers all over the state, read complaints against the utility company, listen to experts' point of view on the hike, and reach a decision.
"We've been listening to people from Pittsburgh all the way to the New Jersey line including today's hearing in Wilkes-Barre. We'll have three more over the next several days. We'll have a total of nine hearings overall," Nils Hagen-Frederiksen of Pennsylvania Public Utility said.
The next hearing will be held on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at East Stroudsburg University at the Innovation Center in room 336.
The judges will make a recommendation to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in the fall. A final decision will be made in January of 2018.