County to contribute $35,000 for attorney costs in Citizens' electric case

The Mohave County Supervisors will contribute $35,000 to help pay for an attorney to represent the county's interest in response to a request by Citizens Arizona Electric to raise bills about 31 percent over a seven-year period.

In so doing, the supervisors trimmed an initial request, made during the Nov.

5 meeting, to pay an outside attorney $70,000 to represent the county before the Arizona Corporation Commission, which is reviewing Citizens' application.

Supervisor Pete Byers, who made the motion, suggested getting cities, Santa Cruz County and other jurisdictions to help pay for the attorney.

Byers, who along with Supervisor Tom Sockwell voted to table a decision Nov.

5, said he wants to consider outside legal help because Deputy County Attorney John White indicated that White lacked the expertise.

White has represented the county before the ACC on Citizens' application and a proposal by Caithness Big Sandy LLC to build and operate a power plant in Wikieup.

"I think it is in our best interest to intervene," Byers said.

He suggested drawing the $35,000 from the economic development fund, which the county previously used to pay for a contract with the Mohave County Economic Development Authority.

Over Supervisor Buster Johnson's objections, Byers and Sockwell voted in June to sever county ties with MCEDA, questioning its business practices and its effectiveness.

Former MCEDA Executive Director Don Van Brunt and Roy Dunton, a board member, gathered 2,000 signatures from within Byers' district from residents wanting the supervisors to spend the $70,000.

Years ago, MCEDA fought a rate request from Citizens by using the legal talents of Phoenix attorney Ray Heyman.

The supervisors Monday did not select a law firm as an intervenor.

The county has intervener status which enables the county to be notified of proceedings and allows county officials to testify and cross-examine witnesses.

Johnson said he would have preferred to earmark $70,000, adding he did not want to wait for the funding request to go before city councils and other public entities.

"I would like to see us get this on board instead of waiting for city councils to intervene," Johnson said.

County Manager Ron Walker said he spoke to his county manager in Santa Cruz County and to local city managers.

Citizens applied for the increase to offset higher fuel costs charged by its sole supplier, Arizona Public Service of Phoenix.

Citizens revised its previous request, filed in September 2000, to increase bills by about 25 percent because fuel costs have continued to rise, utility officials have said.

The company revised the fuel adjustment application after negotiating a seven-year contract with Pinnacle West Capital Corp., parent company of APS.