The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted Thursday to investigate a proposed rate increase for customers of Bethlehem’s Water Bureau who live outside of the city, according to a PUC news release.
The unanimous vote means that the rate increase is suspended for up to seven months while an administrative law judge examines the request and makes a determination.
Bethlehem City Council approved a 15.7 percent rate increase for water users who live inside of the city as part of the city’s 2014 operating budget.
But when former Mayor John Callahan proposed that increase in November, he said he anticipated that the PUC would grant a somewhat smaller increase.
With a rate hike, the total bill for a water customer using 56,000 gallons annually would increase about $59, from $321 to $380 a year, according to the PUC.
Bethlehem’s Water Bureau provides service to 12,709 customers who live outside of the city, the PUC said.
During the rate hike investigation, hearings are held before an administrative law judge at which the evidence in support of the rate increase is examined and expert witnesses testify.
In addition, consumers are offered an opportunity to voice their opinions and give testimony.
The judge then makes a recommendation to the PUC and the matter is brought before the commissioners for a final vote.Together with a 60-day notice period, the rate increase process takes about nine months.