Arnold Line Water Association defends rules at PSC hearing

Arnold Line Water Association defends rules at PSC hearing

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - Arnold Line Water Association defended its rules for billing and stopping service at public hearing with the Public Service Commission Thursday.

In November, the Public Service Commission (PSC) asked Arnold Line Waster Association to make changes to its rules, regulations, policies and procedures to "bring the regulations into compliance with Commission rules," and required a formal hearing when the utility refused.

The PSC asked the water company to make four changes. One, to stop requiring customers to provide their "entire bill or account number" to be able to pay. C.R. Dixon, president and director of Arnold Line Water Association, and said he doesn't refuse to look up account numbers when necessary..

"We were doing like 12,00-14,00 accounts a month try to look up bills, so we did that," Dixon said."So now, we down to probably 15-25 a month that we have to look up. Usually if we have to stop and look it up, it's usually 5 to 7 minutes by the time we look it up, write them a receipt, get their money and they go."

Stephanie Taylor, senior attorney for the PSC who presided over the hearing, asked if there was a way to organize customer names or addresses alphabetically to make those account numbers easier to find.

"You got to stay with it just like it is," Dixon said. "That's way we go read the meters. There ain't no way of putting it in alphabetical order."

Dixon's attorney, Anna Rush, said requiring that kind of information is standard for many businesses like gas companies and insurance.

The PSC also asked Arnold Line Water Association to delete a portion of the user agreement allowing it to "cut off your water  for nonpayment of sewer for the City of Hattiesburg, West Over West Sewage or Lamar Park" because the agreement was not approved by the PSC. Rush said several rural water associations in Mississippi similar agreements and couldn't find approval requirement in the commission's rules.

While Dixon said he works with people, the PSC said customer complaints sparked the commission to ask the company to change its rules.

"You're aware that the number of complaints against Arnold Line Water Association has skyrocketed since those four you mentioned earlier," said Frank Farmer, special assistant attorney general for the Public Service Commission. "Is that correct?"

Dixon said he was aware, but said "these that complains is ones that is just deadbeats. That's all they are."

Farmer also noted Arnold Line Water Association is rated as an F by the Mississippi Better Business Bureau, and Dixon said he answers the complaints and tells "the truth about it."

"The thing about it, when they complaining to her they telling a lie," Dixon said. "All they doing is lying to her."

While the company refused to change those two policies in Thursday's hearing, it did agree to the PSC's two other requests to add language to its section on stopping service telling customers they can file a complaint with the commission if "the decision by the board of directors is unfavorable to the customer," and to update a Mississippi code cited in the regulations to the most recent version.

Rush also argued the association still feels the PSC does not have jurisdiction in this matter, but said even if it did, Arnold Line feels it is in compliance with the commission's rules.

"Obviously, we have disagreement on that point or we wouldn't be here," Taylor said. "But those arguments are duly noted."

Taylor said she would take the evidence under advisement and make a decision "shortly."