Diamond Bar Estates Water seeks 87.4 percent increase
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has suspended the requested effective date for a proposed 87.4 percent rate increase sought by a Kootenai County water company.
Diamond Bar Estates, headquartered in Hayden and serving about 43 households, is seeking an 87.4 percent increase in rates as well as an increase in the fee for the first-time installation of a meter from $200 to $310. The company also wants to add a new-customer connection charge in those places where a service line to the property does not exist.
Under the company’s proposal, the base monthly charge for the first 7,500 gallons of water would increase from $21 per month to $50 per month. For use in excess of 7,500 gallons, the fee would increase from 45 cents to 52 cents per thousand gallons.
Diamond Bar states the consumption increase is necessary so that it can recover operating costs primarily attributable to in improvements ordered by the state Department of Environmental Quality ($11,253), the installation of hydrant locks to prevent water theft ($1,135) and legal fees to acquire and protect water rights ($1,023). The company says it has been operating at a loss for several years. Diamond Bar Estates last rate increase was in 2003.
In 2004, the commission granted the company authority to expand its service territory and establish a domestic water meter installation fee for new customer connections outside Diamond Bar Estates’ original service area. The company argues that the $200 connection fee approved at that time does not cover company costs. It says the proposed increase to $310 is intended to only cover costs, will not contribute to company earnings and will ensure existing customers don’t subsidize those costs.
The new-customer connection charge applies only to those connections where there is no water main tap and no service line to the property or meter base. The company’s proposed new-customer connection is $2,500. If a road crossing is necessary, the company wants to add another $3,000. Again, the company maintains the new-customer connection fee will cover expenses only and not contribute to earnings.
The commission suspended for six months the company’s proposed effective date of June 1, 2007 for the new rates. That will allow time for commission staff to conduct a thorough review of the company’s application as well as an audit of the company’s financial records. The commission may approve, reject or modify any rates or fees proposed by the company.
The commission is also taking written comment through August 10 from customers and other interested parties. Comments are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number (DIA-W-07-01) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.
A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, are available on the commission’s Web site. Click on “File Room” and then on “Water Cases” and scroll down to the above case number.