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Park development to be done without rate hike

A crowd of approximately 35 people gathered to speak out against a possible rate increase tied to proposed system improvements at the former Willow Creek Golf Course, now known as Discovery Park, at a public consumer session on Wednesday.

On hand to answer questions and listen to comments were several officials from the Nevada Public Utility Commission which regulates public utilities operations and rate increases.

Commission Chairman Alaina Burtenshaw clarified that the purpose of the public session was to hear comment on the remediation plan which include converting the existing overflow ponds to rapid infiltration basins, to acquire the necessary equipment for land maintenance, including required remediation of the site, and to enhance the effluent filtration system.

If the plan is approved by the PUC, Utilities Inc. will be permitted to make a formal request to recoup their investment, by increasing sewer-user rates, according to utility President Wendy Barnett. The remediation work, as proposed, is estimated to cost $680,000, and would be recouped through a rate increase, if approved by the PUC. With those cost estimates, sewer customers could expect to see increases ranging from $3.40 for the average residential customer to over $1,422 for commercial or industrial users.

Ten people spoke at the hearing, with nearly all in favor of the property being cleaned up. However, nearly everyone spoke out against project costs being shouldered by Utilities, Inc. customers.

Many speakers, including Dave Stevens, Carol Curtis, Lois Chambers and Gary Vauzyck used the comment period to publicly chastise the company for the lack of customer service and existing high rates.

Barnett clarified that any rate increase would not be used to develop Discovery Park. Instead, she said, the company will rely on grants, donations and other sources of revenue for park improvements. Park cleanup efforts which included tree and weed removal began at the park on Tuesday, she said.

Barnett said that Utilities, Inc. applied to the PUC to make reimbursable improvements in 2013, and was granted approval. Based on that approval, a rate hike that was imposed is paying for the current remediation at the park.

Residents Bill Clark, Mark Dellis and Douglas Shaw advocated for the construction of the proposed rapid infiltration basins as a way to recharge groundwater.

Further hearings on the issue will be scheduled. If the PUC approves Utilities, Inc.’s application for remediation, a rate increase hearing will be held for additional public comment.

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