Utility blames mill bankruptcy for rate increase

Kaukauna Utilities is seen, Dec. 18, 2017 (WLUK/Pafoua Yang)

KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WLUK) -- When David Roloff received a letter in the mail from the Kaukauna Utilities, he wasn't too happy. Kaukauna Utilities notified its customers that it is looking to raise its rates.

Roloff said both his home and business, Roloff Manufacturing Co., would be hit by the increase.

"It's going to be rough because now I got to pass these on or find ways so that I can stay in business," Roloff said.

Kaukauna Utilities filed a request to raise its rates with the state's Public Service Commission.

The utility said a typical bill would go from $81 to $91.

"The rate increase, it depends on how much you use. The average residential would see about 12 percent on that. Your larger customers would see less than that," Kaukauna Utilities general manager, Jeff Feldt said.

  • For the Kaukauna Utilities customer letter, click here

Appleton Coated was the utility's largest customer.

Feldt said when the paper mill filed for bankruptcy, the utility couldn't recoup money the mill owed.

"$2.2 million Appleton Coated owed us when they filed for receivership. With the receivership process, we could not recover that cost from Appleton Coated legally."

Roloff told FOX 11 it shouldn't be up to the customers to makeup for that loss.

"I'd try to get more businesses in here," he said. "Not saying that they aren't but now you have to really step up your game plan and say, what are we going to do to get people in here to start absorbing some of these costs instead of passing it on to a smaller group?"

Feldt said even with the rate increase, Kaukauna Utilities remains one of the lowest electric rates in the country.

"We made a significant investment over many years and I believe in this rate case, you'll see the value in that hydro come out," said Feldt.

A public hearing is scheduled Jan. 18 in Madison. Those who can't make it to Madison can go to the Kaukauna Utilities office building for a conference call.

The Public Service Commission is expected to make a decision on the increase early next year.

If approved, it could take effect as soon as April.

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