La Paz County District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor has some serious concerns regarding the proposed purchase of Brooke Water LLC by EPCOR, as well as the rate cases brought by both companies to the Arizona Corporation Commission. He expressed these concerns at a special ACC meeting Dec. 17 in Parker.
The Pioneer was unable to attend this meeting due to other commitments. We are attempting to obtain a transcript of this meeting, but have been told it will not be available until after Jan. 1.
Brooke Water is a private utility company that serves 2,100 customers in the area north of Parker known as the Parker Strip. Brooke has seen many complaints of poor service and water quality. In August 2018, EPCOR, which owns the Desert Hills water system in Lake Havasu City, proposed to buy Brooke Water and merge into their existing system. Both EPCOR and Brooke have submitted proposed rate hikes of 40 percent to the corporation commission.
Brooke had not brought a race case to the commission since 1992.
Minor provided the Pioneer with a copy of his comments. He praised Brooke’s current staff for their work at upgrading and repairing the system. However, he said he was concerned that rate cases were being heard prior to all upgrades. He said a rate hike of 40 percent seemed punitive to Brooke’s customers, and also questioned how the “average” water use the proposed rate hikes were based on was calculated.
Minor noted Brooke consists of six separate systems. Some of the customers have seen improvements, while others haven’t. He said the systems should all be upgraded before a rate case could be brought to the commission.
“I understand that Arizona utilities are required to make improvements before they can request a rate increase,” he said.
Minor went on to say that, should the commission approve the sale of Brooke to EPCOR, EPCOR should be required to complete all repairs before a rate hike could be brought to the commission.
Stating water is not optional for people, Minor said the proposed 40 percent rate hikes are “punitive” and “sound absurd on their face.” He urged the commission not to approve a rate hike until all the repairs and upgrades to Brooke’s entire system are completed, and then, if the increase is approved, have it spread out over a number of years so no one has an increase of more than 10 percent a year.
Minor also questioned the average use of 2,600 gallons per month that the proposed rate hikes are based on. He said that he and his wife, who have minimal landscaping, averaged approximately 9,000 gallons per month in 2018 and 2019.
“There is one good reason for the low average being reported,” Minor said. “The Parker Strip is a resort area. A large number of these homes are vacation or weekend homes. They may go for months without using any water at all.”
Minor suggested a far better way of determining water usage for a rate hike proposal would be to use the median amount.
Minor closed his remarks by telling the Commissioners he knows this is a complicated case, but Parker Strip residents are counting on them.
“You are the only hope the citizens along the Parker Strip have for getting a fair shake, and any hope for safe, reliable water at a fair price,” he said.