Far West trims requested sewer rate adjustment
Far West Water & Sewer has trimmed a bit off its requested adjusted sewer rate in its last round of written testimony for the Arizona Corporation Commission before hearings on the matter begin this week.
The utility's consultant, Ray Jones, now suggests a monthly bill of $57.44 for residential sewer customers.
The revised proposed rate is the latest in the volley between Far West, regulators at the ACC, representatives of a state-run utility consumer advocacy group, and critical customers standing in opposition.
The next step in the process of getting the Foothills utility any kind of rate hike above its current $21.75 is a week-long hearing starting Monday at the ACC's headquarters in Phoenix.
Also in his testimony filed last Tuesday, Jones detailed an agreement between Far West and Yuma County to come current on back property taxes from 2009 forward – one of the requirements ACC staff said any rate increase should be contingent upon – with an annual payment plan, and to pay off other debts by the end of 2014.
In another frequently discussed topic, Jones again said that analysis from the Residential Utility Consumer Office is flawed. A RUCO engineer chose to look at the sewer system as a whole rather than individually when determining if Far West had any excess capacity – “We were taught the distributive property of mathematics in junior high” – to Jones' direct and continued disapproval.
“The testimony is absurd and demonstrates their lack of understanding of what constitutes excess capacity,” Jones retorted.
Something Jones agreed with was the conclusion, recently offered again by the ACC's utilities director, that Far West does not need interim management as requested by a group of customers.
Commissioners have taken no action on the request, but utilities director Steven Olea said last week that interim management is ordered typically at the initiative of staff as an extraordinary measure, when there is a clear danger to public health and safety. Olea said staff believes there is no need for such interim management at this time.
Jones said Far West's rate application is for legitimate plant and service expansion.
“The biggest challenge facing the company at this time is regulatory lag. The company's investments, which have been in service for approximately 18 months, are large and not included in the company's current rates,” he wrote. “Appointment of an interim manager will not mitigate the financial challenges faced by the company related to its plant investment and will not alter the amount of increase the Company needs in its wastewater rates.”
Head to www.azcc.gov/divisions/it/streaming/events.asp to watch the hearings remotely. Monday's hearing begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday-Friday's hearings begin at 9:30 a.m.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857.