State group joins Arnold Line case

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Mississippi Rural Water Association has asked to be allowed to intervene and participate in the latest reopening of the Public Service Commission case against Arnold Line Water Association of Hattiesburg.

The request asks for the MRWA to be allowed to have “all rights of an interested party to fully set forth its position and rights, and to have the opportunity to fully participate in discovery and all hearings.”

The Public Service Commission reopened the case against Arnold Line after 38 informal complaints since June 2017 claim Arnold Line is requiring bills or account numbers in order to make payment. The local water association said it would comply with the Public Service Commission’s Final Order on June 17, 2017.

Daniel Forde, public affairs director for Southern District Commissioner Sam Britton, said the next two steps in the case involve the PSC.

“A hearing officer will be selected to hear the case,” Forde said. “Then a hearing date will be set for the case.”

Arnold Line President C.R. Dixon said he is contemplating his next action on the case. Last week, he said he was unaware of the commission’s action when he was contacted by The Lamar Times. He received a copy of the news release about reopening the case and declined comment.

In October 2016, the Public Service Commission under direction of Britton originally opened a case regarding Arnold Line citing compliance issues with the association’s Rules and Regulations. After a tumultuous process including an unsuccessful appeal by Arnold Line, the association eventually agreed to comply with the Commission’s order to change its Rules and Regulations to better serve customers.

Subsequently, the PSC said it would diligently monitor operations at Arnold Line to ensure its order was being followed. After continued customer complaints regarding similar issues this year, Britton took steps in implementing change at Arnold Line Water Association.

In the PSC’s Final Order, Arnold Line was told to delete from its service rules the requirement that a customer must provide a bill or account number in order to make payment. Further, Arnold Line was ordered to remove any signage from any location that stated that a customer must have a bill or account number in order to make payment.

 “The bottom line is that I want people to be treated fairly,” Britton said recently. “We have worked with Arnold Line in hopes of coming to an understanding as to how customers should be treated so I’m disappointed to hear that these problems are persisting. However, there are avenues in which we can go down to ensure customers are treated courteously. And I plan on going down every one of them until we see a tangible solution in this case.”