Letter | Kathleen Mishler: What’s behind the county curtain?

In reading the Golden Valley Improvement District (GVID) proposal, I was reminded of the Wizard of Oz and thinking “What was behind the curtain?” This proposal by the Public Works Department of Mohave County has three parts and raises many behind “what is behind the curtain?” questions.

Part One is a rate increase and or a property tax increase to meet increasing operating expenses. The BOS board passed in the budget for GVID Personnel expenses $235,514, supplies and services expenses $323,796, and maintenance and repair of equipment $207,000. That is a total of $766,310. My research through the county website shows the GVID highest revenue was $351,000 in the districts 38 year history. GVID is not regulated by the Corporation Commission (CC) like other utilities and is completely regulated by the County.

The CC understands hardship and is governed as to not to cause an excessive hardship on customers. However, hardship appears not to be a consideration in this multi-part proposal.

For example, the proposed rate for out of district water haulers will go from the current rate of $5.96 per 1000 gallons to $9.84 per 1000 gallons. With Golden Valley having many people on water haul and with a 25 percent poverty rate, this will only increase hardship.

Even with the proposed 24 percent increase now pending in front of the CC by Valley Pioneer Water Company, their out of district water fees will increase from 24 percent from $4 per 1,000 gallons to $4.16 per thousand. VPWC appears to have a better understanding of hardship than GVID.

When anyone reads GVID’s Policies and Procedures it states “It has structured its water rates penalizing those who use larger quantities”. Yet, the new rates are lower the more water you use.

Many proposals especially those involving tax increases and utilities will give an estimate for the amount of projected increase revenue. Here is another behind the curtain question. There is no estimate given for amount of expected revenue to be received by these rate increases and or property tax levy.

Part Two is a $2,800,000 (yes that is the right number of zeros) project to dig a new well at the cost of $1,200,000. The third well is needed as the district currently has two wells with one operating at about half capacity. Within this $2,800,000 request is $850,000 for a third storage tank. Once again, another behind the curtain question surfaces. Why no feasibility study?

With sales and water usage declining for the last several years, on the surface it appears a third storage tank is not needed. A feasibility study would document the necessity for the $850,000 proposed expenditure along with the proposed $150,000 for a close loop system to improve efficiency. This is a presumption because of no feasibility study.

Also to improve efficiency is the request of $600,000 for smart monitoring and billing. With sales declining and no projected revenue offered within the proposal, this proposal appears to be potentially efficient (doing things right), but not effective (doing the right thing).

Now another “What is behind the curtain question?” arises when returning to GVID’s existing policies and procedures. It states “that the cost of increasing the capacity of the system will be paid by the developer.” Yet, with a proposed connection fee of $5,200, what developer would want to develop any real estate within the GVID?

Over the last four years revenue has decreased by $50,000. Is this truly the right time to expand?

Any for-profit business in the real world outside of government facing declining revenue, less customers and competition with lower prices would seek to expand the customer base first. Michael Hendrix said 10 years ago, “Golden Valley has tremendous potential for growth.” Yet, here we are losing customers while the Mohave county government enriches other water companies. Did you know GVID customers through Mohave County paid VPWC $34,355 for water used in road construction in Golden Valley? The GVID record shows no growth within the district. Yes, Golden Valley overall has grown, but not so much in the GVID.

Part Three is policy and procedure changes with the customers only paying 75 percent of a huge bill when a leak happens. Another “What is behind the curtain question?” arises here as the language is unspecific as to leak origination.

Most utilities accept 100 percent responsibility for leaks that happen from the street to the buffalo box, shut off value. The customer accepts 100 percent responsibility from the shut off value to the house. Is GVID now suggesting customers must pay for their problems?

Yes the Wizard of Oz appears to have found a new home here in Golden Valley. Residents will not have the opportunity to return home to Kansas, but be stuck with higher costs, less efficiency and demonstrated poor management.

If you don’t want to live in Oz, then consider attending the public hearing on Nov. 20 at 9:30 a.m. at the Mohave County Administration Building. Let your BOS District representative know your feelings about these numerous proposals. Remember even though this proposal is only for District 4, the other four members must vote on it to approve it.