Jason Williamson, manager of the Payson Water Company, wants the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to give him permission to more than double water rates for more than 1,100 Rim Country customers in several unincorporated communities.
A Sept. 25 meeting 10 a.m. in the Commission’s Hearing Room No. 2 in Phoenix, the ACC will discuss increasing rates by about 118 percent for Mead Ranch, East Verde Estates, Flowing Springs, Geronimo Estates/Elusive Acres, Mesa del Caballo, Whispering Pines and Gisela/Tonto Creek Shores.
The Roundup will explore that rate increase request in a future article.
But first, Williamson hopes to fix the Mesa del problem where residents have faced staggering increases in their water bills every summer due to ACC-approved water hauling charges when the system runs short of water.
Williamson has asked for a hearing before the ACC tomorrow, Sept. 25 at 10 a.m. in the Commission’s offices located at 1200 W. Washington St., Hearing Room No. 2. The public can view the meeting online at: www.azcc.gov then click on “Live Meeting Broadcast.”
At the Wednesday hearing, Williamson will ask the ACC to let the company impose a $7.44-monthly charge on some 400 Mesa del residents to pay for a loan from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) so his company can immediately build a pipeline to the Town of Payson water system. “The Company is requesting expedited processing ‘so that it will be able to pursue an opportunity to build an interconnection between the Town of Payson and the Company’s Mesa del Caballo Water system,’” writes ACC staff in a report from Sept. 18. “The Company anticipates completing construction by May 2014 if it obtains financing of $275,000 before the end of the year.”
The connection would eliminate the water hauling charges that have increased water bills 100 to 400 percent the past several summers.
Williamson would apply the $265,000 loan for the connection to the Payson water system against the full $1.2-plus-million it will cost to hook up the unincorporated subdivision to the C.C. Cragin/Blue Ridge Pipeline, said ACC staff in its report.
ACC staff recognizes Williamson has a timing issue. Unless he can find some sort of relief for Mesa del residents before the next set of dry summer months, he will have to truck in water again to keep the taps running.
Neither Williamson nor the ACC want to see obnoxious water bills again — nor do Mesa del residents.
“Consumer Services Staff has processed several informal complaints forwarded by the Commissioners office this summer regarding the high cost of MDC’s (Mesa del Caballo) Water Augmentation Surcharge,” wrote ACC staff in their report. “Several articles were written in the Payson Roundup this summer concerning the situation.”
The idea is to hook up Mesa del with the pipeline the town is building to reach the not-yet-built C.C. Cragin/Blue Ridge water treatment plant off of Houston Mesa Road near Mesa del.
Williamson told ACC staff he estimates it will cost $275,000 to complete the project.
The ACC staff agrees with the estimate and does not anticipate a huge increase for Mesa del residents at first.
“Approval of a WIFA Loan Surcharge mechanism that may result in a surcharge of $7.44 per month per MDC customer,” writes ACC staff.
“A utility has an obligation to provide adequate services,” Jodi Jerich, executive director ACC, “(But) a water utility is entitled to fair and reasonable rates, (and) customers are entitled to fair and reasonable rates (too).”
Jerich confirmed that providing adequate services means keeping the water or electricity running while charging reasonable rates.
Jerich said ACC staff has done a cost benefit analysis to decide what is more reasonable, drilling a well that might or might not produce enough water to cover the needs of Mesa del, or hooking up to the C.C. Cragin pipeline — a guaranteed source of water that will permanently end the need for water hauling.
The ACC hearing schedule shows additional time on the matter scheduled at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 26.