Responding to popular demand, the Arizona Corporation Commission is planning to take public comment in Yuma regarding Far West Water & Sewer's proposal to nearly triple sewer bills.
The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20 at a time and exact location still to be confirmed.
The Corporation Commission agreed to come here to get customer input after receiving many messages from Foothills residents interested in airing their concerns closer to home. The commission usually meets in Phoenix, where it's headquartered, or in Tucson.
“Sometimes we know that there are some, maybe, specific issues that have been raised repeatedly or that we do get a lot of mail on, and especially if the rate payers are from a distance where it's difficult for them to come here and testify at the time, we do hold meetings at the location in the service territory of the utility,” commissioner Brenda Burns said during a staff meeting this week.
Far West approached the Corporation Commission last summer seeking to raise its residential customers' sewer bills from $21.75 per month to $62.65, or an increase of 188 percent. The utility says its financial condition is “grim” after more than $20 million in improvements to its wastewater treatment system and the higher cost of doing business.
Many Far West customers have told the commission that a meeting in Phoenix would be a hardship for people who could not afford the travel or time to participate. Some also said that a meeting held too late in the spring would mean that winter visitors, who make up a significant portion of Foothills residents, would no longer be in the area.
Commissioners met a crowd of more than 800 when they came to Yuma in 2009 to take public comment for a previous – and ultimately failed – bid by Far West to hike sewer rates. That meeting drew too many people for the venue, the cafeteria at Sunrise Elementary School, and hundreds of people were sent outside to listen to proceedings through a speaker.