EPCOR takeover ‘historical moment’ (January 2, 2022)

Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter called Sept. 1, 2021, one of the most historical moments in the city’s history.

That was the day the city and its newly branded Utilities Department took over operation of EPCOR Water Arizona’s Mohave and North Mohave water systems.

Local control is by far the best way to operate a water system, Cotter said, marking a major step in the city’s eminent domain proceedings to acquire the water utility. No Arizona community should want its water rates and systems controlled by a Canadian city. Edmonton’s desire to see great dividends from communities like ours is a travesty and should not be allowed.

It was a major moment for the city and its residents two years in the making, following the 2019 vote on Proposition 415 to authorize the city to move ahead in its attempt to take over the water system. The city convinced enough residents that a municipal water system — with local control on rates and other decisions — was in their best interest following a series of rate increases approved and another pending before the Arizona Corporation Commission. A hearing in April determined that the city should pay $80 million to assume operation of the system with a jury trial for January 2022 setting the actual purchase price.

EPCOR, fighting what it calls a hostile takeover, presented testimony that the system is worth a little more than $136 million; the city, through a contracted firm, insisted the system was worth far less, placing the figure at around $55 million.

The two-week trial scheduled to begin Jan. 24 will set the actual price, which could be more or less than the $80 million the city already has paid just to operate — but now actually own — the system.

We’re all excited to finally reach this point, said Mark Clark, the city’s first utilities director, who stepped away from the Bullhead City Council to oversee acquisition and operation of the water system. The Utilities Department also operates the municipal sewer system.

Marti Blad, who joined city staff in May as deputy utility director following Clark’s appointment as director, also pointed to local control as a big benefit.

I think communities should be in control of their water system, said Blad, a civil engineer with extensive water management experience. We can make decisions on what we want, what we need. All citizens have a say.

Local control, Cotter said.

The actual cost of that control will be known early in 2022.

Source: Mohave Daily News