Stonetown not taking over Harvest Gold water system
FARMINGTON — While a district court has granted Stonetown Animas Lenders LLC.'s request for receivership of AV Water Co. assets, that agreement carved out the troubled Harvest Gold water system.
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission issued an order today asking for the receiver to also take control of the Harvest Gold water system east of Bloomfield. The PRC met today in Santa Fe and the meeting was streamed live on the PRC website.
The stipulation issued last week names C. Randel Lewis, a Colorado resident and adjunct professor at Daniels College of Business, as the receiver of the Morningstar water system, which serves Crouch Mesa. As receiver, Lewis will be paid $3,500 for 15 hours of work each month. If he works more than 15 hours, he will receive overtime pay of $325 an hour. This will be paid out of proceeds from the water system or by Stonetown.
Customers Kalee Chivers Grothe, who manages a business on Crouch Mesa, and Kevin Wright said they are concerned that Lewis does not have a background in water utility management. Lewis has been a receiver in a variety of cases in the past, but the majority of them have been real estate cases.
Both Grothe and Wright expressed concerns that Stonetown is only interested in the system as a way to recoup its investment and will not be interested in fixing the infrastructure. Both AV Water's water systems were issued boil water advisories in June. The Harvest Gold water system remains on a boil water advisory while the Morningstar system's advisory was lifted in September.
"We’d like to know what their plans are," Wright said.
Stonetown's attorney Zoë Lees and AV Water attorney Germaine Chappelle did not respond to requests for comments by deadline today.
PRC counsel Russel Fisk said the Harvest Gold water system was excluded from the stipulation because it functions separately from the Morningstar system. He said Harvest Gold was also excluded because the PRC was considering granting Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Users Association the ability to act as an independent operator for Harvest Gold. But, last week, Blanco announced it was not interested in becoming an independent operator.
"There's no compelling reason at this time to withdraw Harvest Gold from the receivership," Fisk said.
Commissioner Valerie Espinoza issued a bench request asking PRC staff to look at options if the Harvest Gold system is not included in the receivership. Espinoza said the PRC needs a plan B.
"We're beyond plan B," said Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy. "We're looking at plan C, plan D, plan E."
She said county officials, legislators and officials in nearby cities have all be looking for solutions.
"We're down to about plan J now," she said.
The PRC may discuss AV Water next week due to concerns that the bills customers are being sent include a notice that in the case of an emergency customers should call 911. PRC staff are concerned this could cause customers to call 911 about water-related concerns.
"That is a strain on police resources," said Cydney Beadles, who works for the PRC.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.