Mayor, city take EPCOR fight to state

January 16, 2019 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — City and county government officials traveled to Phoenix where the Arizona Corporation Commission met Tuesday to discuss EPCOR Water’s rate and consolidation requests.

Mayor Tom Brady told commissioners the EPCOR plan contains a “litany of extra fees and surcharges” that have left many people in Bullhead and Mohave County “gravely concerned.”

EPCOR’s plan affects 11 water districts in the state. Some customers would pay less but other would pay more.

Bullhead City customers would be in the latter category. It calls for local rates to increase between 30 and 50 percent, and Bullhead City residents aren’t willing to “subsidize” wealthier customers, Brady said.

“We reject socialized rates,” he told the ACC.

Bullhead City has a relatively new water plant and, like other rural community water systems, is “bare bones” when compared to some of the larger providers within the proposed consolidation plan, said Steve Wene of the law firm of Moyes Sellers & Hendricks LTD, representing Bullhead City.

“If it’s good for EPCOR, a company that can buy other water companies, you can adjust for a small Mom and Pop,” Wene said to the ACC members.

The commissioners also heard from Alfred Scigliano by telephone.

The former Bullhead City Council member and chairman of the H2O Committee, which formed last year to gather signatures to petition for the city to acquire EPCOR’s local assets, said the city is the administrator of the water.

EPCOR should have to approach the city and ask for relief instead of the city having to fight for its rights, Scigliano asserted, because the city entered into a contract in the mid-1990s with the federal government stipulating that the city is supposed to be taking care of the water supply for its residents.

Even if that contract is no longer viable, “you shouldn’t consider consolidation,” Scigliano told the ACC members. “We are the rights holders.”

The ACC is expected to vote on EPCOR’s request Jan. 26 during a meeting that begins at 9 a.m. in Phoenix.

After abandoning a plan to ask voters to approve of the city acquiring EPCOR’s local assets either by purchase or condemnation, city officials again are considering such a move after a recent meeting with EPCOR representatives.

City officials said they thought EPCOR supported their idea of consolidating the four local elements of the water utility’s system in Mohave County. They found out later that EPCOR actually only supported the city’s right to make the attempt but didn’t support the plan itself.

A long list of presenters and speakers required more than three hours of time with the ACC. Those speakers held a wide variety of views regarding EPCOR’s plans for its Arizona interests.

The ACC has an array of responsibilities concerning public utilities, including making decisions in contested matters. The EPCOR case came about after the ACC asked EPCOR to come up with options for rate increases and consolidation of its Arzona holdings.