Brooke Utilities Customers Face Rate Hikes

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More than 4,000 water customers served by companies owned by Brooke Utilities are facing rate increases ranging from 28 percent to 100 percent.


The Arizona Corporation Commission will consider the rate increase proposals during a 10 a.m. meeting Monday, Jan. 31 in Phoenix.


Brooke Utilities President Bob Hardcastle said he will represent two of his water utilities, E&R Water Company and United Utilities, during the rate hearing. The two companies serve 90 percent of Brooke Utilities' water customers in northern Gila County.


The hearing will likely focus on United Utilities because a tentative settlement regarding E&R Water Company's rates has been reached between Brooke Utilities and the Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO), said Gordon Fox, senior analyst for RUCO.


RUCO compiles and analyzes data from around North America and has intervened in the Brooke Utility rate hearing on behalf of the company's customers.


Two other Brooke Utilities holdings, Williamson Water Works and C&S Water Company, which represent 10 percent of Brooke's customer base, will not be considered during the rate hearing because of their small sizes.


A state hearing officer will, however, make a rate recommendation to the commission regarding the two companies.

Commission coming to Pine

The rate increase hearing is the result of a year-long research effort by the corporation commission and Brooke Utilities.


To make sure the company's customers have a say in the commission's decision, the Pine-Strawberry Improvement Association invited the corporation commission to Pine for a public meeting. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24 in the Pine-Strawberry School gym to give water customers a chance to express their opinions on the proposed increase.


The commissioners will not be able to discuss the details of the case, said commissioner assistant Patrick Black. All the information gathered during the meeting will be taken back to the hearing officer for review, he said.


"I would recommend that people come out and learn what they can about the pending rate increase and voice their opinions," Lin Miller, PSIA's vice president, said. "Don't just turn it into a gripe session."


Hardcastle began the rate increase process last February. Some of the water companies involved haven't had a rate increase in 11 years.


"I think that is the reason why most people are not objecting to them getting an increase," Miller said. "They recognize that Brooke Utilities has done some things. Whether they have done enough and what more they should have done is up for debate."


Hardcastle also has asked the corporation commission for permission to change the names of four of his water companies.


The new water companies, Payson Water Company, Inc., Pine Water Company, Inc., Strawberry Water Company, Inc. and Tonto Basin Water Company Inc., would more accurately describe the areas they serve.


Customers can call the Corporation Commission at 1-800-222-7000 or write to the commission at 1200 W. Washington Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007, before Jan. 31 to have their opinions considered in the rate case.


If the increases are approved, they will go into effect in June.

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