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Moorhead PSC approves rate hikes

The Moorhead Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a 2008 budget that calls for an overall 10 percent increase in electric rates and 12.5 percent increase in water rates.

The Moorhead Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a 2008 budget that calls for an overall 10 percent increase in electric rates and 12.5 percent increase in water rates.

The increases will take effect Jan. 1.

Several weather-related incidents played a role in utility rate hikes for 2008, including a drought in the Missouri River Basin and an ice storm in Nebraska, Public Service officials said. A good chunk of MPS's water and electric energy is derived from services in those areas.

With the increased utility rates, MPS customers will be charged 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour, or an estimated $7 monthly increase for electric bills.

GoMoorhead.com customers will see an across-the-board $2 increase to their monthly bills, a change from the proposed increase of $4 for basic service and $2 for deluxe service the commission originally considered.

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General manager Bill Schwandt said the increase won't make much of a difference because the commission needed to add a $2 fee for an anti-virus software package for each service. New requirements from the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act made the fee necessary, he said.

Moorhead City Council member Diane Wray Williams said that because the anti-virus fee is necessary, it makes sense to move in that direction.

"It's making the product more sturdy and of more value to us," said Williams, who serves as a representative on the commission.

The broadband division of MPS has struggled since its inception in 2005, when technical problems cost it hundreds of customers.

Several commission members, including President Ken Norman, voiced concern about the increase to the broadband budget, given GoMoorhead.com's past technical problems and complaints from customers.

GoMoorhead.com currently serves 2,500 accounts, he said.

The budget also includes an increase of $22,000 for GoMoorhead.com's technical support, a $35,000 decrease in the broadband service's interconnection fees, and a $125,000 decrease in attorney fees for the electric division.

A $61,000 increase in contributed capital from MPS's electric division means "there is no material effect on the bottom line, which stays at $99,000," for the broadband budget, according to information in the agenda packet, compiled by Schwandt.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524 Moorhead PSC approves rate hikes Kim Winnegge 20071219

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