Over and over on Monday, the Rim Country residents Payson Water Company (PWC) serves demanded, “Show us the plan — or drop the rate hike.”
Arizona Corporation Commission Administrative Law Judge Dwight Nodes listened to about a dozen people from Mead Ranch, Mesa del Caballo (MDC), East Verde Park Estates (EVP), and Elusive Acres at a public comment hearing on Monday, Jan. 13 in regards to a rate hike PWC proposes.
“When we go up on the weekends, we have to haul water,” said Rocky Turner, whose family has had a cabin in Mead Ranch since 1956.
His cabin has a meter hooked up, but the pressure is so weak he cannot use his upstairs bathroom. He said he must supplement the water into his home or he would not have enough.
“Until (Payson Water Company) has a plan in place to see what they can do to fix the problems, I see no reason for an increase,” said Turner.
In April, PWC proposed increasing the base rate it charges to its Rim Country customers who have a 5/8” x 1/2” meter by 118 percent. Customers would have seen the base rate for their water jump from $16 per month to $39.24.
Now PWC has backed off of its original request and instead would like to raise the base rate to $25.42 per month.
That’s a 35 percent decrease from its original request.
However, its Dec. 6 filing indicates the company would like to make up the difference by charging more for the water actually used. PWC has increased the price per 1,000 gallons and lowered the price points.
In April, PWC asked to charge $2.75 per 1,000 gallons up to 4,000 gallons, with rates rising from there. Now, the company would like to increase the per-1,000-gallon rate to $5.90 up to 3,000 gallons — with rates rising with the water used.
So, a typical water consumer who uses 2,856 gallons would pay $16.85 under the Dec. 6 rate structure, compared to $7.85 in the original filing.
Rising rates were not the only concern of PWC customers.
PWC customers who don’t live in Mesa del Caballo said they did not wish to pay for that community’s C.C. Cragin pipeline hookup.
“There is a community that is going to have a pipeline and this community is 10 miles away,” said Gretchen Tittle from Mead Ranch. “If we are paying for somebody else’s community it does not make sense to me to pay for someone else’s water when we see no benefit.”
However, representatives of Payson Water Company have repeatedly said that Mesa del Caballo customers will bear the full cost of the hookup, at least initially.
Other customers worried about water hauling charges during summer shortages, especially customers from East Verde Park.
Ed Eckhardt said he has lived in EVP for 40 years and recounted the history of water in the community.
“In 1976, we looked into buying the system from United Utilities,” he said, “The company we asked to help us, required we inspect the whole water system with an engineering company. We chose Bartholomew and Hewitt.”
Eckhardt said the engineering company mapped the whole water system and told the 76 community members they would have to replace all the pipes, dig new wells, add a booster system and pay for larger storage tanks. Eckhardt said the community members balked.
He said when Brooke came in to manage the EVP system, it made none of the upgrades the engineering company suggested.
“I want to repeat that was back in 1976. We had only 76 meters. At present, we have 150 hookups,” said Eckhardt.
He said he opposes any water hauling charges until PWC creates a plan to upgrade the East Verde Park system.
Eckhardt repeated a theme that ran through all the testimony on Monday.
“Businesses are in business to make money,” said Steve Prahim from Elusive Acres. “When businesses are successful it’s because they offer a service ... the records reflect in the docket they (Payson Water Company) do not offer a service.”
Nodes wrapped up the public comments by saying all would be taken into consideration at the evidentiary hearing at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 4 in the ACC hearing room, 1200 W. Washington, Phoenix.