Pine Water's Fate With State

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An administrative law judge with the Arizona Corporation Commission is recommending major limitations on the number of connections made to the Pine Water Company system.

The issue of limiting connections arose from ACC staff recommendations following a 2004 rate case hearing for the company.

Two hearings on the matter were held earlier this year -- one in Pine on Jan. 31 and one at the ACC offices Feb. 14. The judge, Dwight Nodes, attended the Pine hearing and conducted the latter one. He reviewed the testimony and made his recommendations to the commission on April 15.

His recommendations included:

  • The number of residential water meters to be created be limited to two with no roll-over. No roll-over means that if, for example, only one meter is hooked up in June, three cannot be hooked up in July.
  • No new commercial connections or main extensions. According to Heather Murphy, public information officer for the ACC, this will keep a developer from coming in and building 15 or more homes off the same main, and restricts large volume usage.

Nodes has ordered all parties to work together to come up with long-term solutions by Oct. 31.

"It is too soon to say for certain, but (the water moratorium) could appear on the May 3rd and 4th open meeting (agenda)," Murphy said.

Residents should know by the end of this week whether the moratorium will be on the agenda.

In a February letter to the Arizona Corporation Commissioners, District 1 Supervisor Tommie Cline Martin requested that the commission reduce the allowed new meter connection in the Pine Water Company certified area from 25 to two.

"A two meter per month moratorium over the next six months should help protect current residents from ever-accelerating water problems while also protecting the rights of landowners planning on starting new construction this summer," Cline Martin wrote.

Robert Hardcastle, president of Pine Water Company and Brooke Utilities has argued that imposing a moratorium would only allow Gila County to circumvent the ACC in pursuit of growth. According to Hardcastle, last year there were only two or three hookups per month.

The ACC's Nov. 19, 2004 report said that the Pine Water's 19-well production source can adequately serve up to 555 service connections during the peak months.

Last year, Pine Water had 1,992 active accounts during the summer months.

Since Cline Martin took office in January she has met with numerous residents regarding the water issues and she has met with Hardcastle. She would like to take a closer look at the situation. She said it would take her about six months to evaluate things.

She was concerned about the impact on the economy of Gila County and in Pine.

"The only economy Pine has is their development," Cline Martin said.

Commissioners Jeff Hatch-Miller, Marc Spitzer, Bill Mundell, Mike Gleason and Kristin Mayes now have the responsibility of reviewing Nodes' recommendations. After the review process they can either accept, deny, change, or choose to go back to another hearing, Murphy said.

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