City, schools protest water hike

By William Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

Clovis’ city attorney plans to attend a Public Regulation Commission meeting on Nov. 8 in Santa Fe in hopes of blocking a proposed hike in water rates for Clovis residents.
City Attorney Dave Richards is drafting a letter on behalf of the city and Clovis schools protesting New Mexico-American Water’s proposed rate hike. The requested increase would be about 18 percent for the average customer, officials have said.

“We are going to request intervention. It’s actually a motion that states that the city and Clovis schools are asking to be allowed to intervene,” said Richards, who will represent the city and schools in the action. “We cannot submit evidence or cross-examine witnesses unless we are recognized as a party to the proceeding.”

The amount of the proposed hike is not large, PRC officials said.

“Rarely are fee increases less than 18 percent, and we often see higher increases,” said Steve Schwebke, a PRC staff member.

Kevin Tilden, New Mexico-American’s director of external affairs, said the water company will be initiating a number of projects in the coming months, necessitating the request for a rate hike.

“This is the first rate increase we’ve asked for since 1999, so even with the 18 percent raise, the annual amount of the water rate has not been that large over the past five years,” Tilden said. “We will be doing some new drilling and we will be replacing water mains and meters.”

A water rate increase of about 12 percent was last approved in 1999.

Richards said the city and public schools are currently receiving reduced water rates. They are concerned those rates will be scrapped if the increase is approved.

Richards said it is difficult to compare the proposed rate hike for Clovis with water rates in other New Mexico cities.
“There are no other New Mexico cities the size of Clovis that have a private water company,” Richards said. “You can compare water rates with other cities but other cities that operate their own water companies don’t have to go through this PRC process.”

Clovis residents wanting to intervene in the proposed increase of water rates have until Aug. 23 to write to:
Public Regulation Commission
224 E. Palace Ave.
Santa Fe 87501