AV Water owns two water systems in San Juan County and provides drinking water to thousands of residents.
AZTEC — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission staff said they would not normally support a 27% increase in water rates, but the situation with the struggling company AV Water is unique. In testimony filed in the PRC docket, staff members expressed support for the rate increase.
Hearing examiners will make a recommendation to the commissioners at a future date about whether to allow the hefty rate increase.
A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 21 and could continue into subsequent days if needed. People wishing to make comments who have not intervened in the case can do so at the start of the hearing at 9 a.m. Sept. 21. Those comments will be limited to three minutes per person and commenters should register in advance by emailing Ana.Kippenbrock@state.nm.us by 8:30 a.m. Sept. 21. Written comments can also be submitted by emailing email@example.com.
A link to watch the livestream of the hearing via YouTube will be posted at nmprc.state.nm.us.
Mediation hearing results in stipulation
AV Water customers have been frustrated after a lengthy boil water advisory in 2016 and past mismanagement of the utility, all of which is documented in a PRC case that commissioners at the time described as one of the hardest cases they had ever heard.
A mediation hearing this summer resulted in a stipulation that includes several requirements to address ratepayer concerns, including a timeframe requirement for billing.
Terms of the stipulation state that the 27% increase will come in the form of $14.10 renewal and replacements charges — which can only be used for infrastructure improvements and repairs — and usage charges. Additionally, AV Water will be required to submit quarterly status reports to the signatories of the stipulation.
The stipulation requires AV Water’s bills to cover a 27 to 31-day period. This is important because in the past customers would go months without receiving a bill and then receive a bill for hundreds of dollars.
If AV Water doesn’t meet the timeframe stipulated, it will average the water use in gallons by the number of days in the billing cycle and then multiply that by 31. It will have to write off any additional usage as a cost of not getting the bills out in time.
In many parts of the service territory, the property owners have a second residential unit rented out on the property. Currently, those are served by the same meter. The stipulation allows property owners to request AV Water install a separate meter, allowing the rental unit to be billed…