BULLHEAD CITY — Officials with EPCOR Water Arizona Inc. made their case for a rate increase during a community meeting Tuesday night, hosted by Mohave Community College.
“For us it’s about educating the consumer, nothing more than that,” said Shawn Bradford, EPCOR Water Arizona Inc. vice president of corporate services.
In his 20-minute presentation, Bradford talked about EPCOR Water Arizona’s state operations, the proposed rate increase and why the company is supporting consolidation of 11 of its water districts into one district, citing efficiency, cost effectiveness, economies of scale and the need for the company to replace aging infrastructure.
EPCOR Water Arizona’s 11 districts include Bullhead City’s districts, called Mohave and North Mohave Valley, as well as Aqua Fria, Anthem, Chaparral, Havasu, Paradise Valley, Sun City, Sun City West, Tubac, and Willow Valley.
“I got my questions answered, but I am not happy with it,” said Bullhead City resident Paulette White, who attended with her husband, Leo Anderson. “It is an enormous increase.”
In a previous rate case decision, the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utility rates, ordered EPCOR Water Arizona to file a rate case for all of its systems no later than July 1, 2018 and to include consolidation options as opposed to treating all the water districts independently. In its application, EPCOR Water Arizona also proposes the consolidated districts transition over five years to a uniform rate of $44.95 per 7,000 gallons of water used each month.
For North Mohave District, the current rate is $24.20 per month. To bring North Mohave District to the consolidated uniform rate of $44.95, the first year rate would be $39.54, the second year rate would be $40.90 and years three and four would increase to $42.60 and $44.17 respectively, an increase of 85.7 percent over the five years.
For consumers in the Mohave District, the current monthly rate is $28.25 for 7,000 gallons. The proposed consolidated rate would result in a bill of $46.85 beginning in 2018, an increase of 59 percent without a phase-in period.
“My budget is maxed and it’s still not enough,” said Stephen Turner, a Bullhead City resident on a fixed income. “I know it is going to hurt.”
If the ACC does not approve consolidation, the proposed rate for Mohave District is $41.19 per month and $46.85 for North Mohave District per 7,000 gallons used.
EPCOR plans to reinvest 32 cents of every dollar into plants, pipes and equipment across the consolidated districts, Bradford said. Over the next 10 years the utility plans to spend $8.9 million on infrastructure in the North Mohave District and $49.2 million in the Mohave District.
“The investment into the community is related to infrastructure,” Bradford said. “It’s going to be the rehabilitation of storage tanks, replacement of water meters and fire hydrants, and there is a big focus on water loss. We have a lot of water services in customers’ homes and in water mains in the street that are leaking. We’re proactively replacing that infrastructure, working to lower costs by wasting less water.”
The application proposal includes the creation of customer assistance programs should the consolidation be approved, including an income-based assistance program, a non-income-based disabled veteran assistance program and a deployed service member credit.
Bradford encouraged people to contact the ACC with their comments regarding the rate case, as did Mohave County Sup. Hildy Angius.
“There will be opportunity for people to talk about this,” Angius said. “Some Corporation Commission representatives will be coming to Bullhead City and we’ll let residents know when they come. If they have concerns they really have to make their voices heard. I really wish there had been more people here; people have to show up.”
EPCOR Water Arizona will have another round of community meetings in the spring, Bradford said. The ACC is expected to make a decision on the proposal Sept. 8.
“The commission’s decision is final and the new rates take effect 30 days later,” Bradford said.