State senator protests Blue Mound water rate increase

Posted Friday, Sep. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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After helping Blue Mound in its attempts to take over its privately owned water system, state Sen. Jane Nelson is now joining city residents’ fight against a dramatic increase in their water and sewer rates.

Nelson wrote a strongly worded letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this week protesting a rate increase from Monarch Utilities, a subsidiary of Southwest Water Co., which provides water to Blue Mound.

Monarch, which is base in Sugar Land, has filed a request for a 14.4 percent water rate increase with the TCEQ. The company is also seeking a 9.9 percent wastewater rate increase.

In her letter to Bryan Shaw, chairman of the TCEQ, the Flower Mound Republican described how neighboring providers charge far less for water than Monarch. She said its rates are 300 percent as high as the rates in nearby Saginaw.

“During the most recent regular session, I sponsored legislation in response to exorbitant, unjustified rate increases that Monarch is currently imposing in Blue Mound,” Nelson wrote. “It is profoundly unfair to trap Texans in a monopoly that gouges its customers this way.”

Monarch has said previously that a rate increase is necessary to keep pace with the cost of operating the Blue Mound water system, and cited rising expenses for wholesale water and other costs that are greater than the rates charged to customers.

According to Monarch, it would implement the rate increase in two phases beginning with a 9.9 percent increase on Jan. 1 and then a 4.5 percent increase on July 1. Sewer rates would also increase by 9.9 percent on Jan. 1.

A customer using 5,000 gallons a month — the average usage for Monarch customers, according to the company — would see their water and sewer bills climb from about $145 to $166.

By comparison, a typical water customer in Fort Worth currently pays a combined water and sewer bill of $52.02. A Saginaw resident pays $45.

Blue Mound Mayor Alan Hooks said he has hired a consultant and a “rate case” attorney from Austin to fight the proposed increase.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said he supports Blue Mound’s position on Monarch’s rate increase request.

“Monarch is doing this for its bottom line,” he said.

Blue Mound tried to take charge of its water system last year by initiating condemnation proceedings against Southwest Water, Monarch’s parent company. Three commissioners from Tarrant County were appointed and agreed that the value of the water system was $2.75 million.

While the court dispute continued, Geren and Nelson filed legislation that would have allowed Blue Mound to take over the certificate required by the state to operate the water system if the court ruled in favor of the city.

However, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the legislation. In a statement, Perry said the legislation allows a city to condemn the real property of a privately owned water system and that it made no provision for the value of lost business.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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