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Oak Creek utility wants ruling in rate change

By Beth Kevit

Oak Creek Water & Sewer Utility plans to ask a judge to rule on a state Public Service Commission rate decision that has placed on hold a potential agreement to supply Waukesha with water.

In response to the utility’s 2011 rate change application, the PSC, which controls the prices utilities can charge, agreed to increase the rates. However, in doing so, the commission changed the way some costs were allocated to Franklin, one of the utility’s wholesale customers.

Steve Yttri, the utility’s general manager, said those costs would be unfairly shifted to customers in Oak Creek. The utility not only failed in its appeal of that decision, but the PSC further decreased the costs to wholesale customers.

In sum, Oak Creek customers now will pay about $366,000 that used to be charged to wholesale customers, Yttri said. He said the utility plans to file by Wednesday afternoon a petition for judicial review of the PSC’s decisions.

The utility also is seeking a PSC rehearing, Yttri said, but only two aspects of the application could be discussed.

Pending those outcomes, he said, the utility isn’t comfortable signing Waukesha on as a wholesale customer. It would be added under the new rates, he said, which wouldn’t be a sustainable arrangement.

The PSC would have to approve the contract with Waukesha.

Waukesha wants to stop using radium-tainted wells and has asked to be added as a wholesale customer to buy Lake Michigan water from the utility.

Dan Duchniak, general manager for the Waukesha Water Utility, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Lawrie Kobza, the utility’s attorney, said Tuesday afternoon that a petition had not been filed. Although declining to get into the specifics of the utility’s claim, she said judicial reviews can, among other outcomes, lead to a judge correcting a legal imbalance or telling an agency to re-evaluate a decision.

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