By Mark Waite
LAS VEGAS — The Nevada Public Utilities Commission Friday scheduled a consumer session in Pahrump on a rate application by Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada for 6 p.m. March 20, with the location yet to be decided.
The session will be held at the county commission meeting room at 2100 Walt Williams Dr. on the Calvada Eye. The representative of a local recreational vehicle park said increases in water rates threaten the Pahrump resort economy.
Staff testimony on the case is due by April 22, staff rate design testimony is due by April 29. UICN has to deliver its rebuttal by May 13, according to the schedule adopted Friday.
A hearing at PUC headquarters is scheduled at 10 a.m. May 20, possibly continuing into May 21. The PUC office is at 9075 W. Diablo Dr. in Las Vegas, which fronts on the I-215 Beltway between Russell Road and Tropicana Drive.
In the application filed Dec. 28, UICN requests an increase of 7.98 percent to its water service revenues for $3.3 million, an additional $245,810; and an increase of 17.06 percent to its sewer revenues, another $422,301 for a total of $2.9 million.
Residential water rates wouldn’t go up under the UICN proposal, but water rates for commercial service will go up from 36.17 percent to 39.81 percent.
Commercial water rates would go up from $1.03 per 1,000 gallons for the first 6,000 gallons to $1.44 per 1,000 gallons. For users of 6,001 to 30,000 gallons per month, the rate would go up from $1.75 per 1,000 gallons to $2.44. For users of more than 30,000 gallons, the rate goes up from $2.65 per 1,000 gallons for a four-inch meter or smaller to $3.68 per 1,000 gallons; while those with meters larger than four inches would see their rate go up from $2.82 per 1,000 gallons to $3.84 per 1,000 gallons.
Irrigation rates will likewise increase about 38 percent. They now range from $2.28 per 1,000 gallons for smaller users of up to 6,000 gallons to $5.85 per 1,000 gallons for more than 30,000 gallons. Those rates will go up to a range of $3.16 per 1,000 gallons for up to 6,000 gallons per month, up to $8.10 per 1,000 gallons for users of over 30,000 gallons if the UICN application is approved.
All sewer customers will see a 19.5 percent increase under the proposed rates. Monthly sewer rates for the smaller residential meters would increase from $41.84 to $49.98 per month. For a customer with a two-inch meter the monthly sewer rate will increase from $334.75 to $399.91, while for a four-inch meter, the monthly sewer rate will increase from $1,047.54 to $1,251.44 under the UICN request.
James Horton filed a notice of intent with the PUC to participate as a commenter in the proceedings on behalf of Preferred RV Resort.
In his request, Horton said, “the substantial increase in water rates, as proposed, endangers the financially delicate state of Pahrump’s resort economy which is a vital facet of the community. As with other resort properties in the area, it would be exceptionally difficult to remain an attractive option for out-of-state tourists and snowbirds if we increased our nightly rates to accommodate a water rate increase of this magnitude. Additionally, our bottom line is not sufficient to absorb such an increase without doing so.”
The deadline to file a petition for leave to intervene in the case or to be a commenter was Jan. 30. However the March 20 consumer session is a forum for the public to voice concerns over the rate application directly to PUC staff without filing advance notice.
The PUC is a quasi-judicial body, similar to a court of law. Evidence is submitted by parties to commission proceedings, but pursuant to state law, a commenter is not a party to commission proceeding. Written comments will be made part of the record but won’t be treated as evidence.
Past rate hearings have typically involved UICN, Public Utilities Commission staff and the Bureau of Consumer Protection which represents the ratepayers.
Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada is required by law to file a rate case every three years. They recoup the cost the utility wants to claim for improvements in the last three years.