OMBUDSMAN ALERT: Ombudsman Opposes 18.6% Water Rate Hike

By Dr. Louis Alpert

For all of those who have lived in Rockland as far back as the 1980s, when the Spring valley Water Company was Rockland’s only public water company, it may be of interest to note that this Ombudsman, who was the long-time Chairman of the Town of Clarkstown’s Consumer Affairs Commission,won his first case before the New York State Public Service Commission, in a letter issued on July 23, 1982 to Edward V. Ehlers, Vice-President and General Manager of the Spring Valley Water Company, who was instructed that “As a result of a billing practices complaint received from Dr. Louis Alpert, Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Commission, Town of Clarkstown….We believe this method of billing in the absence of an actual reading is improper to the extent that it places an undue burden on the ‘correctness’ of the estimate used or developed for the April 1st billing….we feel this is a significant flaw in the company’s method of billing…I believe that a prompt response to this matter should be directed to Lisa Rosenblum, Director of the departments’s Consumer Services Division.” This problem was promptly corrected after this complaint.

Now, nearly 37 years later, this ombudsman confronts our current water company, Suez Water,with a complaint shared by many others in the community that we reject the notion that the rate-payers pay for the costs of their $54 million mistake of planning for an un-needed desalination plant!

As stated by Theodore Arin, President of the Rockland County AARP, “The Corporation should not pass on their boo-boo to the ratepayer, as simple as that.”

The Ombudsman Alert is further shocked at the attitude of the Suez Water Company in assuming that the water rate-payers ought to bail out their stockholders after management made a serious and expensive mistake that was also most unpopular in this county!

Lastly, this Ombudsman notes that the New York Public Service Commission is in a minority among all public service commissions throughout the united states by not having a citizen consumer advocate as part of its membership.

Ombudsman Alert strongly urges our elected New York State representatives, Senator David Carlucci, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee to ensure the success of legislation creating a seat for a single Citizen Consumer Advocate on the New York State Public Service Commission.

Assemblymen Zebrowski said, “It is obvious that the Public Service Commission is not providing the type of independent oversight that taxpayers need. That is why I am a co-sponsor of the Public Utility Advocate Bill; we need an independent expert to hold costs down and utilities accountable.”

This ombudsman firmly believe that this addition would enable the Commission to even better support the needs of the New York State consumers, especially in matters concerning affordable rates for utilities!

Please direct all comments and questions to: editor@rocklandcountytimes.com