CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Saying it needs the money to repair a crumbling facade at its Charleston headquarters, the state Public Service Commission will reap about $2 million from a rate increase on utility companies it regulates.
The PSC is optimistic the money will cover all of the repairs, and spokeswoman Susan Small said utilities won't be able pass the increases along to consumers.
"This is not something that ratepayers will be feeling immediately, if at all," Small said Monday afternoon.
The PSC oversees all public utility companies that do business in the state. That includes approving rates and fees set by those companies.
It is considered a "special revenue agency," meaning it receives money from fees assessed to utility companies.
It may charge up to 40 cents for every $100 of gross revenue earned by a company through business conducted in the state. It also is allowed to charge a utility up to 10 cents for every $100 of property the company owns.
The PSC tries not to charge the maximum amount allowed by law, Small said. For the 2013 budget year, it charged companies 30 cents for every $100 of gross intrastate revenue and 7.5 cents for every $100 of property, she said.
A recent report from an architecture firm and structural engineer concluded much of the brick exterior of the PSC headquarters is in danger of falling. The building, at the corner of Brooks and Quarrier streets, is less than 30 years old.
"We have observed there is insufficient restraint, reinforcement, anchorage and attachment of the masonry and cast stone to other building structural elements," the report states.
Swanke Hayden Connell Architects of New York and CAS Structural Engineering of Alum Creek have investigated issues with the building since late last year. At the time, a freestanding brick arch on the side of the building facing Quarrier Street presented problems.
The state paid Maynard C. Smith Construction of Charleston about $116,000 to remove the brick from the arch. During its investigation, the architects and engineers thought it would be a good idea to look at other parts of the brick facade, leading to the most recent report.
A project manager with Maynard C. Smith recently reported the building is structurally sound.
The PSC has known about the issues for some time. In preparation for the upcoming fixes, rates for the two fees, which provide the bulk of the PSC's operating budget, were raised.
For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the PSC earned about $13 million from the revenue fee and $3.79 million from the property fee, Small said.