Testimony of Susan LaCourse September 25, 2016, before a committee of the Montgomery County Council concerning an increase in water rates proposed by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission:
My name is Susan LaCourse, and I am a resident of West Laurel. I would like to speak on behalf of the many WSSC customers who send this message: DON’T RAISE OUR RATES!
Over the past three years, I have networked with over a thousand WSSC customers through my petitions on Change.org (649 signatures) and MoveOn.org (198 signatures) and through my Facebook page, “Marylanders for Affordable WSSC Water”. Dozens of customers have posted comments that specifically condemn the WSSC rate increases over the past 12 years and cry out for relief. (One comment was, “Help!”) Public perception is that WSSC spends money extravagantly and wastefully.
Here are some examples of what we see as customers:
- WSSC’s newish fleet of spiffy 4WD SUVs that I personally have repeatedly observed WSSC employees use to drive to meetings (almost never with more than one occupant).
- The $60 million expansion at the Patuxent Plant (WSSC has very publicly pointed out that total consumption is flat or declining and will remain so for the foreseeable future, and peak usage is far below capacity, so how necessary is this expansion?)
- WSSC’s Annapolis office suite in a brand-new, state-of-the-art building (with an automated, robotic indoor parking garage) on some of the most expensive real estate in Annapolis (7 State Circle) that presumably allows WSSC lobbyists easy access to the State House (How many other utilities own office suites on State Circle?)
- The spiffy Headquarters building in Laurel (this is mentioned a lot by customers)
- The rumored 6-digit “birthday party” that WSSC plans to throw for itself to celebrate its 100th year
I have also repeatedly heard customers conjecture about executive compensation, salaries, benefit packages, pension and retirement benefits, etc. etc.
These are just the extravagances that we know about. How much more waste is there that we are not aware of?
The argument that excessive rate increases are needed every year to replace aging pipes is as old and tired as the pipes themselves. Pipe replacement is just a small part of WSSC spending.
It seems that everyone (including WSSC’s own consultant) acknowledges that WSSC has a customer relations problem. It can’t be solved by hiring more staff (WSSC’s plan). WSSC would do far, far more to improve customer satisfaction if they did some belt-tightening and passed the savings on to customers, than if they hired 100 more customer service staff. And hiring more staff just makes the spending problem – and the public perception of waste – worse.
I encourage you to serve your constituents responsibly by not raising WSSC rates for FY18.