A five-day hearing in front of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) resulted in a clarified water rate structure for Mesa del Caballo (MDC) and highlighted the difference between Phoenix and rural water fees.
Steve Gehring, a Mesa del Caballo resident and intervener in the rate case, clarified with the ACC what the Town of Payson will charge MDC customers after the pipeline hook up is complete.
In its filing, the Payson Water Company (PWC) had said the Town of Payson would charge it about $7 per 1,000 gallons of water. Gehring said he understood the prices would start at $4 per 1,000 gallons until a customer had used 3,000 gallons of water, then the rate would increase.
ACC staff member Crystal Brown assured Gehring that although the filings in the rate case used $7 as an example, the lesser charge, if agreed upon with the town, would apply to MDC residents’ bills.
Kathleen Reidhead, a Deer Creek resident who splits her time between Phoenix and the Rim Country, submitted her Phoenix bill as evidence to show the difference in how water is billed in the city versus the county. She did not believe the rate structure fair to Deer Creek residents.
“I ... put my Phoenix bill into evidence,” said Reidhead, “and it is in fact that we are not in an inverted tier structure .... Do you think that the water users in Phoenix would be upset if they had this type of rate structure?”
Brown said the ACC usually recommends a tiered rate structure, including curtailment fees, based on water availability in the rural areas.
The difference in how customers are charged between Phoenix and the rural areas of Arizona, accentuates the benefits of spreading costs to provide water service to numerous people rather than a few.
Reidhead’s comparison between the city and county rate structure bolsters PWC’s request to lump Whispering Pines, Mead Ranch, Mesa del Caballo, East Verde Park, Gisela, Tonto Basin and Deer Creek under one rate structure.
Reidhead had requested that Deer Creek and Gisela have a separate rate structure from the rest of PWC since those two communities sit in a different watershed.
Brown said such a rate structure could end up costing Gisela and Deer Creek customers more when the time came to upgrade the system.
“It appears to me that the underlying issue that you want to address with that question, is the cost of service and one system subsiding the cost of another system,” Brown said. “That is already occurring in the Gisela system. The Triple T system and the Gisela system are subsiding one another to an extent .... Water infrastructure is expensive. There is going to be a time when the Gisela infrastructure will have to be replaced.Then that cost can be spread over the whole customer base.”
Staff from both the ACC and Payson Water Company confirmed that only Mesa del Caballo customers will pay for the C.C. Cragin pipeline.