The Arizona Corporation Commission will visit Payson this evening to hear a final round of public comments on a proposal to significantly boost base water rates in many Rim Country communities and impose costly water hauling charges.
The commissioners will listen to the public on Friday at the Church of the Nazarene in Payson starting at 6 p.m., although public meeting laws will prevent them from actually responding to customer comments at the meeting.
“They (ACC commissioners) will often go out into communities, it gives them a chance to hear customers concerns,” said Rebecca Wilder, ACC public relations officer.
The visit will supplement the extensive hearings already held on Payson Water Company’s request for a rate increase affecting many communities, including Rye, Gisela, East Verde Estates, Whispering Pines, Mesa del Caballo, Flowing Springs and others. The company wants a revenue increase of $289,731, which would more than double the base rate for customers using the average 3,000 gallons a month. The monthly bill for that average customer will rise from $21.60 to $47.22.
In early February, the ACC held a week-long hearing, which drew a tidal wave of comments. Designated “interveners” unleashed a torrent of criticism on documents and requests submitted by the company, which Brooke Utilities sold to JJ Williamson just before the rate increase request went to the commission.
Intervener Tom Bremer represented East Verde Park residents.
Although Bremer won points for causing the PWC to back down from an onerous curtailment fee plan, he said water hauling charges still threaten to raise summer water rates sky high. The company wants permission to charge much higher rates for water trucked in from outside in summer months when the community doesn’t have enough wells or storage tanks to keep up with demand.
Bremer urged PWC customers to protest water hauling fees and the steep increase in water prices.
“Otherwise, the ACC staff’s recommendations (including EVP hauling surcharges) are likely to be adopted without further scrutiny, in my opinion,” Bremer wrote in an April 8 email. “The hauling surcharges will cost (East Verde Estates) collectively up to the staff’s recommended cap of $10,000 every summer.”
Wilder said the next step after all of the public comments would be for Administrative Judge Dwight Nodes to submit a Recommended Opinion and Order to the ACC commissioners. “It will be a number of weeks,” she said. “It depends on the complexity of the case.”
With interveners from Deer Creek, Gisela, Mesa del, Mead Ranch and East Verde Park, the case has expanded to cover multiple points of view.
Kathleen Reidhead from Deer Creek asked for support from her neighbors.
“Even if you are bashful about speaking, please come and support your neighbors who will be speaking,” wrote Reidhead in an email. “Each person will be allowed to speak for three minutes to say whatever they want to say about the new water rates being proposed.”
Those who want to speak can sign in with the Corporation Commission before 6 p.m.