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Monday, December 4, 2023

Residents were surprised by the increase, and so was the regulator. “They came to me with questions”

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Residents of Kamień Pomorski (West Pomeranian Voivodeship) were surprised by an increase in water bills. Polish Waters, the regulator, also, because – as he explains in response to TVN24 Biznes’s questions – “he refused to approve the tariff”. The legal battle between the municipal company and the regional branch of Wody Polskie is in full swing, and residents are crying and paying.

Monika Kosińska, councilor of the Kamień Pomorski commune, during an interview with TVN24 Biznes, explains that she became interested in the topic of how the new tariff was approved because of the inhabitants of the commune.

– They came to me asking why the price of water had increased so much. I was surprised when I did not find approved new tariffs for the Kamień Pomorski commune. And I started digging further, she says.

How have water prices increased?

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She shows us the calculations she prepared based on bills from the commune’s residents. They show that, for example, a family of four living in the city, which uses an average of 12 cubic meters of water, paid PLN 190.94 per month before the increase. After the increase, he pays PLN 237.07 for the same consumption.

Another example is a married couple of farmers living in Wrzosów. They have about PLN 3,000 a month to live on. PLN z pensions agricultural. They use 6 cubic meters, for which they paid about PLN 100 before the increase. Now they pay over PLN 125.

In turn, a farmer from Wrzosów, who monthly uses from several dozen to several hundred cubic meters of water needed to water animals and perform work in the fields, paid PLN 482.03 before the increase and now PLN 590.20, i.e. PLN 108.17 more.

Higher bills are one thing, the other is the way the new tariff was introduced.

Who changed the tariffs?

Councilor Kosińska draws attention to the fact that water prices have been changed since May 20, 2023 – while Adrian G was the president of the Municipal Utilities Company in Kamień Pomorski. Until the end of January 2023, she was also on the company’s management board. Sylwia Sobolewska, wife of PiS secretary general Krzysztof Sobolewski. Currently, he is a proxy in PGK, i.e. a person who has a power of attorney granted by the president regarding certain tasks. Currently, the company is managed by Sylwia Brzęczkowska.

The previous president was dismissed May 24, 2023 after a court verdict on the charge of receiving financial benefits. We contacted the spokesman of the District Court in Szczecin, who explained that this “judgment is not final, appeals have been filed.”

Monika Kosińska returns to dates in our conversation. He emphasizes that “the new water tariff entered into force on May 20, 2023, but the company published it on its website only on June 13.” – This means that almost a month has passed since it started applying higher prices – he says.

– I wrote to Wody Polskie and asked for clarification on this situation. I was answered that “after analyzing the documents presented and the supplements to the application sent by the company, the regulatory authority decided that the presented tariff did not deserve approval and on March 9, 2023 issued a decision refusing its approval, at the same time specifying a 60-day deadline for submitting a corrected project.” tariff and improved justification” – quotes the response of Wód Polskie, which is the regulator of the water and sewage market.

“The tariff was approved by the previous management”

TVN24 Biznes contacted PGK in Kamień Pomorski. President Sylwia Brzęczkowska assures that “rates for water and sewage collection were established in accordance with the Act on collective water supply and collective sewage disposal.” However, the head of PGK adds that she has been the president of PGK Kamień Pomorski since May 24, 2023. – The tariff was approved by the previous management – he points out.

– The current price was introduced by the then president of the management board, Adrian G., pursuant to Art. 24f of the previously mentioned Act (on collective water supply – ed.). Full content of the tariff applicable in the towns served by Przedsiębiorstwo Gospodarki Komunlnej Sp. z o. o. based in Mokrawica, Kamień Pomorski commune, can be found on the company’s website – he adds.

Points 2 and 3 of Art. 24f apply to situations when the regulator does not issue a decision on a submitted tariff application on time. Then, the prices proposed by the commune come into force – after 120 days from the date of delivery of its project to the regulatory body along with the application for approval.

We ask what steps the current president plans to take due to the fact that Polish Waters did not agree to change the tariff.

– The tariff for water supply and sewage collection came into force pursuant to Art. 24f of the Act of June 7, 2001 on collective water supply and collective sewage disposal. The mode of entry into force of the above-mentioned act is described in detail in the above-mentioned act – repeats Sylwia Brzęczkowska.

Polish Waters: no consent to the new tariff

What does the regulator say? We are asking Wody Polskie, among other things, whether it is possible to apply a water tariff based on the provision mentioned by Sylwia Brzeczkowska.

“Regarding the tariff applied by Przedsiębiorstwo Gospodarki Komunalnych Spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością in Kamień Pomorski, I would like to inform you that, by decision of March 9, 2023, the Director of the Regional Water Management Board of the State Water Management Company Wody Polskie based in Szczecin, refused to approve the tariff for collective water supply water and collective sewage disposal” – admits the Department of Communication and Water Education in Polish Waters.

He adds that “the company filed an appeal against the above decision to the President of the State Water Holding Wody Polskie as the second instance body. As a result of examining the case (instance control), the President of PGW WP, by virtue of the decision of August 7, 2023, overturned the decision of the regulatory body and referred the case for reconsideration.

At the same time – as it was emphasized – the President of PGW WP confirmed that the tariff decision was issued by the Director of RZGW within the 45-day deadline referred to in the regulations and therefore the effect referred to in Art. 24f section 2 of this Act on collective water supply.

The Communication Department also explained that the issue of applying a new water tariff without approval by Polish Waters falls within the competence of the first instance body, i.e. the director of the Regional Water Management Board in accordance with Art. 27a section 3 point 4 of the Act on collective water supply and collective sewage disposal.

This section of the Act concerns fines, for example, for overcharging water fees. They can amount to up to 15%. revenue of the water supply and sewage company achieved in the previous tax year.

In another response, dated September 15, the department of communication in Wody Polskie told TVN24 Biznes that “the director of RZGW PGW WP in Szczecin notified the initiation of administrative proceedings regarding the imposition of an administrative fine on Przedsiębiorstwo Gospodarki Komunlnej Sp. z o. o. in Kamień Pomorski in pursuant to Article 29(1)(2) of the Act of 7 June 2001 on collective water supply and collective sewage disposal for applying a tariff for collective water supply and collective sewage disposal by inflating prices or fee rates.

Read also: Problem with water fees. “We’re about to have a huge problem”

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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