Blue Mound votes to lower water rates

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In a bold move to counter a proposed 14.4 percent water rate increase by Monarch Utilities, the Blue Mound City Council voted to lower the rates Tuesday night.

The small blue collar community northwest of downtown Fort Worth, launched its latest salvo against Monarch Utilities, a subsidiary of Southwest Water, during a specially-called meeting which included a public hearing on the company’s rate hike proposal that was submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality last month.

After the public hearing, the council voted 5-0 to deny Monarch’s rate increase request and to adopt an ordinance calling for a 9 percent decrease in water rates for customers using less than 5,000 gallons a month which includes many of the city’s residents. Rates would increase for larger water users to help emphasize water conservation, according to the city.

The council also voted to lower the fixed minimum monthly water use charge from $39.95 to $28.37 per month.

When asked if Monarch was aware of the ordinance, Mayor Alan Hooks said: “No, but they will be tomorrow when they get a copy.”

Blue Mound residents were upset about the high rates which are around three times as high as those charged in nearby cities that purchase water from Fort Worth.

Monarch is also seeking a 9.9 percent waste water rate increase, but the city is not contesting that.

Charles Profilet, president of Monarch Utilities, sent a letter to Hooks on Monday saying that representatives from Monarch would not be at the public hearing

“While we recognize the importance of public hearings as a means for city officials to gather input from residents in making regulatory decisions about the rate application, we do not believe the presence of a Monarch Utilities representative is needed for a productive discussion,” Profilet wrote.

In his letter, Profilet said that in 2012, the company invested $3.5 million in plant and equipment improvements to its water and sewer systems, throughout the state. In Blue Mound, Monarch invested over $900,000 in capital improvements since the system was acquired from Tecon, another water provider in 2005.

He added that rate increase would be implementted in two phases, 9.9 and 4.5 percent, but that a cost of service study showed that Monarch could ask for a 44 percent rate hike.

Jim Boyle, an Austin attorney representing Blue Mound in its rate dispute said the city can set its own water rates, at the Legislature granted that authority to cities in the 1970s. Monarch can appeal Blue Mound’s new water rates to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, he said.

Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman for the TCEQ said Blue Mound has the authority to set water rates inside its corporate limits, but also must ensure that they are “just and reasonable” under the Texas Water Code, she wrote.

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

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