If there is safety in numbers, Sun Cities residents might feel safe enough that the Arizona Corporation Commission heard what they had to say.
Five busloads of residents traveled to Phoenix Jan. 23 to tell commissioners they do not want to subsidize costs of wastewater infrastructure in other communities. Their desires will be part of the items considered as commissioners decide in coming weeks whether to approve consolidation of five EPCOR Water Co. wastewater districts — Sun City, Sun City West, Agua Fria, Anthem and Mohave.
“Ours was the largest group represented (at the hearing), by far,” said Pam Schwartz, Sun City Home Owners Association board president.
The Sun Cities contingent filled the main meeting room, the overflow room and a private commissioners meeting room for the hearing.
“All our residents were heard by shortly after noon,” Ms. Schwartz said. “It went quite well.”
Lloyd Maple, SCHOA board member, said one woman asked during the hearing how much EPCOR spent on infrastructure in Sun City and how much they get back in rates. However, EPCOR officials did not answer. Greg Eisert, SCHOA Governmental Affairs Committee chairman said what the water company has spent in infrastructure improvements in the last four years is small compared to the financial return its officials are requesting.
If the water districts are consolidated all customers in the combined district would pay $41.02 per month for wastewater. That would be a significant increase for Sun Cities residents, but residents in the other district areas would see a reduction on their bills.
Now the matter is in the commissioners’ hands. However, when a decision gets made is uncertain. Mr. Eisert said it could be April or May.
“It changes,” he said. “They have so many cases right now they overlap.”
In addition to district consolidation, EPCOR officials want a rate increase. Their proposal was for slightly over $25 monthly. But a settlement agreement would bring that down to just more than $23.
Sun Cities residents may have another chance to take the same bus trip. Arizona Public Service officials filed a rate increase request.
“We may have to load up some buses again,” said Steve Puck, SCHOA board member.
If things went as well as residents believe this trip went, it will not be hard to fill the buses again, according to Ms. Schwartz.
“People felt good as they got off the buses,” she said. “There was a very positive feeling about how things went.”
Rita Tillery, SCHOA board member, said the effort shows the level of concern Sun Cities residents have for issues that affect them.
Greg Eisert, SCHOA Governmental Affairs Committee chairman, said there is a settlement agreement on the financial issues of EPCOR’s rate request to the ACC. He said EPCOR officials want a guaranteed return of 10.5 percent on their investment in the communities.
“EPCOR wants $5 million and the settlement proposal is $3.5 million,” he explained. “The (ACC) staff started at $2.9 million.”
The Residential Utilities Consumer Office opposes the settlement agreement, as does PORA of Sun City West, among others, according to Mr. Eisert. SCHOA has not yet made a decision on whether to oppose the settlement.
“RUCO believes it should be a reduction,” Mr. Eisert said. “EPCOR has not shown that things are ‘falling part’ as they imply.”
Steve Puck, SCHOA board member, said it is still early in the APS rate increase request, but SCHOA will file a rebuttal.
“Things on this request should accelerate over the summer,” Mr. Puck said.