ACC approves rate hike for Valley Pioneers Water Co.

Customers of the Valley Pioneers Water Co.

face higher rates effective Nov.

1.

Monthly user charges will rise from $15 to $18 per 3/4-inch meter, which serves most of the residences within the 24-square-mile jurisdiction of the water company.

The water company bills about 1,950 meters per month, and the median water usage is 4,970 gallons per month.

Customers also face new rates for the so-called commodity usage.

They will be $2.60 per month for using one to 7,000 gallons of water, $4.10 per month for 7,001 to 20,000 gallons and $4.60 per month for using more than 20,000 gallons.

The commodity rate is designed to encourage water conservation.

The current charges are $2.50 per month for 1,001 to 14,000 gallons and $4 per month for using more than 14,000 gallons.

The monthly user charges and other costs are going up thanks to a unanimous decision Oct.

23 of the Arizona Corporation Commission, which followed the recommendations of Administrative Law Judge Dwight Nodes.

The judge presided over a public hearing Aug.

30 in Golden Valley during which the water company pressed its case for raising rates by 18.4 percent and ACC staff sought an additional 6.1 percent rate hike to cover loans and other costs.

The water company sought higher rates to cover the costs of building a new well and storage tank to meet demands for more water.

The ACC concurred with Nodes' recommendations to authorize the water company to finance the improvements by borrowing up to $1.3 million from the Rural Utilities Service for a 40-year term and $120,000 from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority for a 25-year period.

Valley Pioneers board President Marc Glawson said on Oct.

26 that he had seen a copy of the decision, but indicated that he respected the expertise of ACC staff.

General Manager John Clayton attended the Oct.

23 meeting, but he went on vacation afterward and could not be reached for comment.

"This is only the second hike we have had in 13 years," Glawson said.

"This process has been going on for three years (before the ACC).

That is why we don't have very many rate hikes and when we do, it seems like a lot."

Rate hike critic Virgil Heath Sr., a former member of the water board, said on Oct.

26 that he had not seen the decision.

"I'll look at it when I get it," said Heath, who testified during the public hearing in August.

The decision will enable Valley Pioneers to pay for a new well that can produce 700 to 800 gallons of water per minute, Glawson said.

Valley Pioneers plans to install its fifth well on Redwall Drive.

The four other wells are "very low-producing," Glawson said.

One well pumps only 50 gallons per minute, two others pump a little more than 100 gallons per minute and the fourth pumps 225 gallons per minute.

"This will enable us to extend the service," Glawson said.

"We are also increasing our storage capacity, which will in the summertime enable us to give these pumps (in the four other wells) a rest."

Valley Pioneers serves an area bound on the west at Teddy Roosevelt Drive, on the east at U.S.

93, on the north at Agua Fria Drive and the south at Unkar Drive.