City files proposal in EPCOR rate case

September 22, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — Arizona Corporation Commission administration hosted a contentious hearing in Phoenix on Wednesday on Bullhead City’s alternate consolidation proposal in EPCOR Water Arizona’s rate case.

The city filed a post-hearing brief Monday, opposing consolidation of EPCOR’s 11 water districts into one statewide district, and provided an alternate consolidation proposal for consideration by the commission. The city-proposed alternative requests consolidation of the Havasu, Mohave, North Mohave and Willow Valley systems into one district and consolidates EPCOR’s metropolitan Phoenix and Tubac systems into another district.

The city noted in its filing the alternative consolidation proposal came after discussions with EPCOR’s senior staff.

“As a result of these discussions, on Sept. 13, 2018, Bullhead City Council voted to file this two district proposal and remove Proposition 410 — authorizing the acquisition of the local EPCOR system — from the November 6 ballot,” the filing said.

Proposition 410 would have asked voters to decide whether the city should acquire EPCOR assets here and put water utility operations under the control of city government.

ACC, the agency that regulates utilities, previously ordered EPCOR to file a rate case this year and to include options for both stand-alone rates and a rate consolidation — a single rate — across its Arizona service areas.

“Having reviewed that order I did not find anything in there that said its either make a proposal of full consolidation or a stand alone. It said, ‘provide options,’ ” said ACC Administrative Law Judge Belinda Martin, in response to objections from parties in the case regarding Bullhead City’s late-hour proposal. “So any suggestion that (EPCOR) was directed to file something about full consolidation only, I’m not buying into that.”

Other parties also objected to the late filing of a new consolidation proposal by the city.

“As far as the concern here with the filing at the late date, if you will, of this proposal, I think everyone who is concerned about it and raising issues with it really ought to start thinking about the concern of what would have happened if Proposition 410 would have gone to the ballot,” said Steve Wene, Bullhead City legal counsel in the matter. “Because while you think your rates are better with Bullhead in consolidation, think what it’s going to be like if EPCOR doesn’t have Bullhead City in the mix. With all due respect I think the rates and the trauma caused by that mean we’ll be sitting here a year from now considering how it’s all going to be implemented.”

Under the original case filed by EPCOR with the ACC, the average water bill in Bullhead City would go from $28 a month to $45. Under Bullhead City’s proposed consolidation plan the average bill would be $36, said Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter.

EPCOR’s legal counsel made clear the company still supports full consolidation and that although the company did some of the math in the city’s proposal, the company did not make the proposal.

Judge Martin said she would take the city’s proposal under advisement and file an order soon, “stating where we’re going to go with this.”

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