By January 23, 2019

EPCOR Water Rate Case Could Be Decided Jan. 25

By Robert Roy Britt — A long-running set of proposals for when and how much to change rates for EPCOR customers across 11 districts in Arizona, including the east side of Anthem, will likely be decided at the next meeting of the Arizona Corporation Commission, Friday, Jan. 25. The decision will determine if Anthem’s rates ultimately go up, down or stay roughly the same.

An Anthem EPCOR customer with a ⅝-inch line and ¾-inch meter currently pays $50.91 per month for up to 7,000 gallons (many residents use more than that). That rate does not include certain surcharges, nor does it include the wastewater portion of the bill.

Until recently, there were two options on the table. The suggested rates for both options, comparing to the above user scenario, were modified recently in a judge’s Recommended Opinion and Order (ROO) to the Corporation Commission. Here are the latest figures, according to Anthem Community Council:

Stand-Alone: Keep the districts separate. Anthem’s rates would jump to $81.01 and stay there until such time any other potential rate case were heard, which would likely be years.

Consolidation: All 11 districts would see new rates phase in over a five-year period, resulting in all customers ultimately paying the same rates. The latest suggested phase-in schedule by year, for Anthem:

  1. $55.89
  2. $52.41
  3. $49.04
  4. $45.50
  5. $41.97

All along, Anthem Community Council has advocated for consolidation vs. the stand-alone option. EPCOR has also advocated for consolidation. Sun City has advocated the opposite

Judge Recommends Stand-Alone

Significantly, the judge’s recent ROO recommended the stand-alone approach. Anthem Community Council and reps from some other districts continue to advocate for consolidation. But in light of the ROO, they recently proposed a third option: partial, regional consolidation.

“Regional consolidation, if considered by the Commission at the hearing as a final-hour alternative, would result in Anthem’s rates staying almost the same as the current rate,” Council said in a statement.

The whole situation was discussed last week by the Corporation Commission, but no decision was made. The Commission issued a statement saying it plans to render a decision on Jan. 25.

Anthem Community Council plans to send reps to the hearing, and the public is welcome, but according to Council staff, it’s possible that no further input from the public will be accepted.

“The Council and other parties have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to convince the Commission to consolidate EPCOR’s water districts,” said Roger Willis, Anthem Community Council president. “We encourage as many Anthem residents as possible to attend the meeting this Friday to show that the community really deserves rate relief instead of rate shock.”

All Corporation Commission information related to this case can be found here. An overview by Anthem Community Council is here.

Open Meeting, Arizona Corporation Commission
9 a.m., Friday, Jan. 25
Hearing Room One
1200 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, 85007

Behind the Proposals

This information has been included in previous North Phoenix News articles on this topic:

Anthem water rates in recent years have been based on an analysis of 2008 rates, said EPCOR spokesperson Rebecca Stenholm. The last water rate hike for Anthem residents was in 2013, Willis said.

The rate changes, initially proposed by EPCOR, were based on increasing operating costs, including increased maintenance costs on aging equipment and things as diverse as higher electricity prices and the rising cost of chemicals used to treat water.

Also considered is what EPCOR says are $150 million in capital expenditures made in recent years to water facilities across the 11 districts, costs that have not been recovered from ratepayers, as well as $430 million in capital expenditures it expects over the next 10 years (including $20 million for Anthem). These infrastructure costs are atop normal operating expenses and, Stenholm explained, akin to the major repairs needed on an aging car.

A relatively new facility, like the one in Anthem, might just need “an oil change, new tires and some belts” in the early years, she said, but eventually it’ll need a new transmission, then at some point it’s time for a new car.

“Economies of scale are an important factor in consolidation,” Stenholm said. “We’re providing the same service across all those districts.”

This article was first published on North Phoenix News.


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