Once more, the long-suffering residents of Mesa del Caballo have endured a slapdown lesson in relying on the Arizona Corporation Commission to protect them from the vagaries of a private water company.
The residents there have struggled for years to obtain adequate service and fair treatment from Payson Water Company, owned by Brooke Utilities until its purchase a year a go by Jason Williamson.
The company has for years failed to develop an adequate water supply — as it has done in every community it served. Before then-owner Robert Hardcastle sold the company to Williamson, he convinced most of the residents their best hope for an ample and affordable water supply lay in connecting to Payson’s Blue Ridge pipeline, since the 400-home community lies alongside Payson’s proposed water treatment plant for the pipeline. The connection would result in a sizeable increase in average monthly bills, but would assure an ample supply and avert the need to ever again haul water in trucks — a practice that doubles and triples summer bills.
Many reluctantly accepted the company’s assurances, knowing it would mean a $7 monthly surcharge for a $300,000 project to connect Mesa del to Payson’s current system — and a larger increase in the next two years when the Blue Ridge water actually arrives. In the meantime, Payson has plenty of water and has agreed to charge Williamson the same rate as its domestic customers.
But now that the hookup’s finished, the indifferent, inefficient, indefensible Arizona Corporation Commission hasn’t yet given Williamson permission to pass along to his customers whatever Payson charges for water. Moreover, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t yet approved the new pipe.
So it’s possible that the company will first collect the surcharge and then impose water hauling charges
That’s just outrageous.
The Arizona Corporation Commission made a great show of coming to Payson where several hundred vented about an additional doubling of water rates proposed by Williamson in all the communities PWC serves. The commissioners listened patiently and sympathetically — as though they gave a damn. But if the ACC doesn’t act immediately to allow Williamson to turn on that pipeline, we’ll know that show of concern was nothing but gross hypocrisy.
The long, pathetic ACC effort to regulate PWC’s state-granted monopoly presents a strong argument for simply disbanding the commission — and sentencing them to five years of sponge baths in muddy tap water.
In the meantime, we hope Mr. Williamson won’t squander the trust and good will of his new customers by imposing water hauling fees — even the corporation commission and ADEQ fail to act quickly
And finally, we hope Mesa del Caballo residents will give thought to annexing to Payson, which would not only solve their water woes — but improve their fire protection. But then, that’s a whole other editorial.