Some Gatlinburg residents recently received a letter from Tennessee Water Service Inc. stating the utility company plans to surcharge customers even if they do not have plans to rebuild their homes that were destroyed in the November wildfires.
TWS told customers in their letter they would be increasing active customer's bills from $58.60 average a month to $69.15 a month and for inactive customers, the bill would increase from $0.00 to $24.81 a month. Inactive customers would include those who lost their home in the fire and will not be rebuilding.
When the Sevier County wildfires happened in late November 2016, TWS put a hold on all bills for residents affected by the fire. TWS extended the due date on all outstanding balances until March 31, 2017.
"I do think it's unfair, but not everything in life is fair," said Pete Jucker, an inactive customer of TWS.
Jucker lost his home in Chalet Village. He is rebuilding and expected the utility would petition something like this.
"They haven't charged us anything for almost a year now," Jucker said.
On Sept. 22, TWS petitioned the Tennessee Public Utility Commission for emergency interim relief.
A spokesperson with TWS said the purpose of the petition is to allow TWS to "recover the costs of providing drinking water service to its customers during the period of recovery from the devastating, wind-driven wildfires of 2016 that destroyed or severely damaged the majority of the homes connected to TWS' drinking water system."
TWS told customers their surcharge proposal would only be temporary.
"TWS proposes that the interim period for which they are applicable be no more than 18 months from the date of the Commission's approval of this petition," the letter stated.
As of Thursday, the Consumer Protection and Advocate Division of the Office of the Attorney General has petitioned to intervene.