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PRC approves AV Water rate increase in hopes of improving issues with the utility

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Activist Dawn Dollknife-Teller protests against AV Water Co., Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 at the intersection of County Road 390 and Highway 390 in the Crouch Mesa area.

AZTEC — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioners expressed optimism as they approved a stipulated agreement for rate increases for AV Water Co. customers who live in Crouch Mesa and surrounding areas.

The PRC met on Dec. 2 via Zoom and the meeting was livestreamed on YouTube.

The utility struggles to pay for the water delivered by the City of Farmington and has struggled to pay for repairs. It has not been able to pay off the debt it owes.

Hearing Examiner Elizabeth Hurst said something had to happen or else the utility would not be able to continue operations and the customers would have to provision their own water.

“I don’t think that’s a viable alternative,” Hurst said.

Commissioner Valerie Espinoza cast the sole opposing vote to the increase in rates, expressing concern for the customers who have had to deal with problems including a lengthy boil water advisory in 2016. 

“They’ve been promised resolution to issue after issue related to their water,” she said.

More:New Mexico Water Service announces agreement to acquire AV Water assets

The rate increase will not be enough to pay all the company’s debt, but it will help address much needed system improvements. The hearing examiner, Hurst, described some of the past repairs to the system as holding it together with duct tape.

The increase may also help facilitate the sale of the Morningstar Water System, which is the water system owned by AV Water Co., to New Mexico Water Service Co.

Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar said she voted in favor of the rate increase in hopes that it will bring a resolution to the issues that customers have faced for years. She expressed hope that a change in ownership will improve the management and fix some of the problems.

“I’m looking forward to the new company taking over at some point,” she said.

Espinoza was not alone in expressing concerns for the customers who will have to pay more.

“It’s been a nightmare for these folks. I wish there was a way we could do it that wasn’t nearly as expensive as this is turning out to be,” said Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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