Clovis water-rate decision delayed again

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

The Public Regulation Commission has again postponed a decision on the proposed water rate hike in Clovis and Edgewood for New Mexico American Water, according to a PRC news release.

District 1 Commissioner Jason Marks discovered an accounting error in documentation overstating the utility’s tax costs for Edgewood, the release said. When the error is corrected, the proposed 44 percent rate increase drops 7 percent in Edgewood.

However, for Clovis, the correction could mean an additional 1 percent in the proposed 12.6-percent hike pending before the Commission, according to PRC spokesman John Arnold.

“Because of this accounting error … the proposed increase in Edgewood may be reduced,” Arnold said. “In Clovis customers may see a minimal impact of up to 1 percent on top of the roughly 13 percent proposed.”

The Commission voted Tuesday to put off action on the rate hike until June 8, allowing New Mexico American Water time to respond to the documentation accounting error.

Clovis customers may reap some benefits in Marks’ plan for disposition of monies escrowed from a contract with Southwest Cheese, according to the release. He wants them to receive monies collected in excess of the utility’s cost of providing water to Southwest Cheese. PRC staff recommends splitting it between New Mexico American Water and its Clovis residential and commercial customers.

“There’s no justification in the record for splitting this money with the utility,” Marks said in the release.

New Mexico American Water had asked for a 20-percent increase in May 2006 from its 2005 adjusted water service revenues, according to officials. The additional revenue is needed to offset increased expenses, capital improvements and dwindling rates of return on investments in the company’s facilities, according to the PRC release.

A call to a New Mexico American Water official Tuesday evening was not returned before press time.