Town staff offer water rate-hike information (April 24, 2014)

APPLE VALLEY · The town will include a public information session on a water company ‘s 14.88 percent rate-hike proposal during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. seeks the rate hike for 2015, and anticipates increases of 8.48 percent and 8.19 percent in the following two years, according to a town staff report.

The town is a customer of Apple Valley Ranchos just like our residents, so these rate increases significantly impact our budget through the use of water at the parks and the golf course, said Kathie Martin, the town’s spokeswoman.

Apple Valley Ranchos spokesmen said the rate hike will provide revenue that is 2 percent higher than the Public Utilities Commission authorized for 2014.

Operating revenue for an aging water system that covers 51 square miles and serves 17,780 residential customers and 19,601 other customers must come only from water rates, said Assistant General Manager Tony Penna and Edward Jackson, director of revenue requirements at Apple Valley Ranchos’ owner, Park Water Co.

Because water use is down — thus income for the company — for several reasons, the company seeks to raise rates in double digits to cover maintenance, increased fire-protection storage and an aggressive modernization effort to help save on future operating expenses, the spokesmen said.

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates is questioning 14 points in the water company’s 2015 rate hike request. The ORA, a state agency, describes its statutory mission on its website: To obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels. In fulfilling this goal, ORA also advocates for customer and environmental protections.

Bernadette McNulty, who was a member of the town’s former Blue Ribbon Water Committee, said she was surprised to hear of the public information session.

There must be a better way to inform ratepayers, she said.

McNulty said of the rate hike request, The way the rates are tiered negatively impacts residential users.

Customers of Apple Valley Ranchos will have the opportunity to comment at two public participation hearings set for 1 and 6 p.m. April 30.

Hearings on the proposed rate hike will take place before an administrative law judge June 16-20.

The Town Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. at 14955 Dale Evans Parkway in Apple Valley.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press