Water-rate compromise discussed

By David Stevens: CNJ editor

New Mexico-American Water Company officials are still looking for a rate increase. But they’re discussing a proposal that would be less than the 18 percent requested for the average customer, officials said Wednesday.

New Mexico-American and Public Regulation Commission officials confirmed they’re negotiating a compromise to the water company’s original request, but declined to provide details.

Last month, the city of Clovis and Clovis’ public schools intervened in the case in hopes of blocking the proposed rate increase.

Dave Richards, a Clovis attorney representing both entities, said Wednesday the proposed compromise would mean a lower rate hike for the water company’s customers, but he would not be specific.

“They called and said they think they’ve reached an agreement, but would appreciate it if I would not disclose the terms (publicly) right now,” Richards said. “I have seen it, but they asked that I not discuss it until it’s been put in writing and they’re all satisfied.”

Kathy Wright, New Mexico-American manager, said a hearing on the case is still scheduled Nov. 8 and “as far as I know,” no decisions will be made before then. But she said PRC officials have proposed a compromise to New Mexico-American’s original request.

“They review the information you present and then they make suggestions and then you kind of decide if you can live with their suggestions,” Wright said.
“That’s where we are right now … trying to decide.”
Wright said New Mexico-American’s current rate is $1.773 per unit for most residential, commercial and industrial users. A unit is 750 gallons.

The current rate for city and school usage is $1.123 per unit, she said.

New Mexico-American has asked for a rate increase that will average out to 18 percent per customer. Water company officials say they need the increase to fund new drilling and to replace water mains and meters.

New Mexico-American’s last rate increase was in 1999. That was a 12-percent hike, water company officials have said.

Richards, the attorney, said he will present his clients with three options prior to the public hearing on the proposed rate increase: They can endorse the compromise agreement, object to it, or take a neutral stance. He said he does not know what he will recommend.

School officials could address the issue at their Oct. 12 meeting. City officials are not likely to address it until Oct. 21, Richards said.