Proposed AVRWC rate hike raises ire (April 30, 2014)

APPLE VALLEY • About 200 residents turned out Wednesday afternoon to voice opposition to a 15-percent rate hike request by Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co.

The first of two sessions in a single-day hearing before Administrative Law Judge Douglas Long was held in the Town of Apple Valley’s Community Room, during which residents and business people objected to the company’s proposed three-year rate hikes that would total more than 30 percent.

Apple Valley Ranchos is requesting a change in its monthly service charge from $22.84 to $23.46. It also seeks to increase its Tier 1 charge for residential water from $2.48 to $2.91 for a unit of 748 gallons, but the tier cap is moving down from 13 to 12 units to help meet a state water-conservation goal, Assistant General Manager Tony Penna said between sessions.

Before the first session, Long explained the reason for the California Public Utilities Commission’s local public hearing and the process that should end with a rate decision in November.

I’m already overwhelmed by the amount of people here, he said.

After the hearing opened, a spokeswoman from the commission’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates explained her office’s task: To secure the lowest reasonable water rate for customers.

Edward Jackson, director of revenue requirements for the water company’s owner, Park Water Co., said Apple Valley Ranchos needed the increase for maintenance of an aging water delivery system, for improvements to enhance fire-protection capability and as a consequence of a shortfall in sales.

Then about 40 residents spoke, deriding the need to raise rates even as they have been practicing water conservation, installing water-reducing appliances and otherwise limiting use.

They complained of high rate increases by the company over the years affecting those on fixed incomes, lamented the loss of greenery because they can’t afford to water lawns and plants, and complained of broken pipelines that get patched instead of upgraded or replaced.

Two summers ago I watered all my trees and my plants at certain times and last summer I did that in half, Wendy Shernicoff said. And my winter bill I just paid was $68 for two months. So now what is my summer going to be like? What is the future going to be like?

Town spokeswoman Kathie Martin said in an earlier interview Apple Valley’s budget will be adversely affected by the rate hike and could impact its services to residents.

The requested rate increases are 14.88 percent in 2015 and dollar amounts that equal rates topping 8 percent in 2016 and 2017.

The new rates are expected to take effect in January but the full hike requested probably will not be granted. That conclusion is based on a list of past request amounts and PUC authorizations, according to information provided by the water company.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press