Decision issued on AVRWC rates (April 9, 2015)

APPLE VALLEY — A proposed decision issued by an administrative law judge in the pending water-rate case of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. would reduce the rate increases that the company has requested to 9.85 percent for 2015, about 5 percent less than the company requested.

Water rates are recommended to increase but will be lower than the 31 percent over three years requested by the water company. The proposed decision does not authorize AVR’s requests for a new office costing approximately $4 million, its Bell Mountain storage tank costing $2.3 million and its Stoddard tank costing $2.35 million, the town of Apple Valley said in a statement.

In addition, the town said its objections to ratepayer bill impacts are reflected in the proposed decision because it lowers AVR’s main replacement budget from $16.7 million over three years to $9.4 million.

If the town had not intervened in this case, AVR would have added more than $15 million to its cost that would have been paid by the citizens of Apple Valley, Town Manager Frank Robinson said in a statement. He added that this is the first time the town has participated in a CPUC settlement conference on behalf of the ratepayers.

The town’s efforts — along with its briefing on litigated issues — have certainly paid off, town officials said in the statement.

Apple Valley Ranchos is owned by Park Water Co., which is in the process of being sold to Liberty Utilities.

Over the last 10 years the California Public Utilities Commission has authorized a 5.3 percent annual average increase of Ranchos’ rates for water service, Park Water CEO Christopher Schilling said in a statement. With reduced water use, customers’ average bills have increased even less.

“The town government has had the opportunity to participate in every rate case we have filed. The regulatory process is very comprehensive and transparent and allows for public input to balance the amount customers pay for water service and with the costs to operate and invest in the water system that serves the majority of Apple Valley.

Apple Valley Ranchos’ rates for water service ensure the continued reliability of the water system, and that water quality meets or exceed(s) state and federal standards. A gallon of high-quality water from Ranchos’ still costs less than a penny a gallon.

Both parties have 20 days to comment on the proposed decision, and then another five days to reply to any comments made by the other side, before it is taken up by the full commission for final ruling, according to the town.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press