Ohio American Water has reduced its rate-increase request.

Ohio American Water has reduced its rate-increase request.

The company filed a notice with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Jan. 20 dropping additional annual increases from its request to charge more for water and wastewater service. Still being pursued is the originally requested rate increase of 27 percent for 2010.

The company had also been seeking to raise rates by 23 percent in 2011, nearly 7 percent in 2012 and nearly 6 percent in 2013.

Ohio American Water spokeswoman Mary Beth Johnson said the decision was made to drop the increases for 2011, 2012 and 2013 after a PUCO staff report regarding the request recommended approving a one-time increase between 5.85 and 7.27 percent and denying the additional increases.

Ohio American Water also was led to drop the additional increases after the Ohio Consumers' Counsel filed a letter with the PUCO saying the Ohio American Water rate-increase requests should be denied and the company should lower its rates.

"We withdrew it because the PUCO and the consumers' counsel opposed the step increases," Johnson said.

She said Ohio America Water had included the multi-year increases in its proposal after it was recommended that the company phase in water-rate increases more gradually.

"They asked us to avoid applying that all at once, but when we did that, they didn't like it," Johnson said.

The Ohio Consumers' Counsel issued a statement Wednesday stating Ohio American Water's change in request did not alter the OCC findings that the company's residential rates should be decreased.

James Welch, co-chairman of Fight the Hike Ohio, a group formed to oppose Ohio American Water's rate increase request, said the group is not changing its stance that the company should lower rates rather than increase them.

"We're still hoping for zero," Welch said. "We're hoping that the PUCO will listen to the residents and help the customers get what they deserve: a quality product at a reasonable price. That would mean going backward."

Welch said Fight the Hike supporters believe residential customers are unfairly shouldering the burden for the company's costs, which he said should be spread out more evenly among residential and commercial customers.

"We're asking to spread the wealth and change their business model," he said. "The quality's poor and the price is high."

PUCO spokesman Matt Butler said the change in the Ohio American Water request will not affect the PUCO process.

"We'll continue as we have been, no change," Butler said. "The staff's investigation won't change."

The PUCO is scheduled to hold a public hearing regarding Ohio American Water's request at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at Faith Covenant Church, 3607 Dempsey Road.

After that, parties involved in the case can file briefs with PUCO relating to the request. A PUCO attorney will then review the case and make a recommendation to the five-member commission.

The commission will review the case and the recommendation and then issue a decision, but Butler said PUCO has not determined how soon that decision will come.