Advocate: Water company should receive half its rate request (May 14, 2014)

APPLE VALLEY • The advocate for utility ratepayers recommends Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. receive only half the rate hike it requested in January.

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent consumer advocate within the California Public Utilities Commission, announced its opinion Tuesday.

Apple Valley Ranchos Water has asked for twice what it needs in rate increases to serve its customers safely and reliably, said Joe Como, ORA’s acting director. We recommend that the CPUC approve ORA’s recommendations, which provide AVR with what it needs to operate, and doesn’t place an unnecessary rate burden on Apple Valley water customers.

In January, the water company requested the CPUC approve a rate increase of nearly 15 percent beginning in 2015, with additional increases of about 8.2 percent to 8.5 percent in the following years. Apple Valley Ranchos serves about 24,000 water service connections in the town of Apple Valley.

ORA’s analysis concluded that customer rates should increase by about 8 percent beginning in January, followed by increases of about 3 percent for 2016 and 2017.

It means we’ve not provided enough information to them, the water company’s assistant general manager, Tony Penna, said.

Current water bills are about $130 every two months for the average residential customer, the ORA said. Its recommendation would increase an average residential water bill $9.27 every two months rather than an estimated $18 under Apple Valley Ranchos’ request, according to the advocate.

Penna said the utility’s needed capital improvements seem to be overlooked by the ORA.

We’re reviewing their comments and will respond by the deadline, said Penna, which he estimated as the end of the month.

Public Participation Hearings were held in Apple Valley on April 30. The five-commissioner CPUC panel is expected to host evidentiary hearings at its offices before an Administrative Law Judge from June 16 to 20. Then the PUC is expected to rule on the three-year rates request before the end of the year and rates would become effective Jan. 1.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press