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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Proposed Water Rate Hikes Cause but a Ripple : Utilities: There’s little turnout at public hearings on Antelope Valley Water Co.'s request. But PUC advocates division is suggesting a smaller boost.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A proposal by the Antelope Valley Water Co. to significantly increase its water rates has yet to raise the ire of customers.

Only a few people attended a hearing in Lancaster Monday night held by the California Public Utilities Commission. And only one person showed up at a hearing earlier in the day held by a Kern County community serviced by the Antelope Valley Water Co.

PUC Administrative Law Judge A. V. Garde said it is uncommon for there to be so few people at a utility rate hike hearing. The low turnout, he said, indicates that customers are satisfied with the quality of service and don’t feel the proposed rate increase is excessive.

Lancaster resident Chet Quick attended the Lancaster hearing and, while he is unhappy with the proposed fee hike, he was even more upset that so few of his neighbors showed up.

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Speaking out on rate hikes is not just left to customers. The PUC’s Ratepayer Advocates Division, which is responsible for evaluating proposed utility rate increases, has suggested approval of a lesser hike than the water company requested.

The small water company--which serves about 1,200 homes and businesses in Lancaster, Leona Valley, Lake Hughes and the Fremont Valley in Kern County--is hoping that the rate hike will increase its revenues 34% in 1994. Further proposed increases would mean an 11% revenue increase for the company in 1995 and a 6.3% gain in 1996.

Chris Whitley, area manager for the water company, said the money would be used to cover increasing costs. It would also pay for capital improvements, including the replacement of water pipes and drilling of new wells.

Under the water company’s proposal, each of the four districts it serves would have different rate increases. In Lancaster, where it has fewer than 600 customers, the monthly service charge would increase from $5.95 to $10 in 1994, while water use rates would rise from 66 cents per 100 cubic feet to 76 cents.

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The nearly 400 homes and businesses served in the Leona Valley would see their monthly service charge increase from $5.60 to $10 next year, while their water use rate would climb from $1.19 per 100 cubic feet to $1.56.

Lake Hughes water customers would pay a $10 monthly service charge, up from the current $6.50, and $1.63 per 100 cubic feet of water used in 1994, up from $1.51. This is the only community served that would also receive a sizable rate hike in 1995, according to the water company’s proposal.

In the Fremont Valley, where the company has just 70 customers, the monthly service charge would increase from $5.25 to $10 in 1994. Usage rates would rise to $1.48 per 100 cubic feet of water from $1.20.

The PUC’s Ratepayer Advocates Division proposed that the four districts be combined into one and that a consistent charge be levied. The division suggested that the monthly rate be set at $9.60 and that the water use rate be 90 cents per 100 cubic feet in 1994, with no increases in 1995 or 1996.

Additional hearings are scheduled at 6 p.m. today at the Lake Hughes Community Club and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Leona Valley Community Building.

Garde, who is presiding over the hearings, is not expected to make a recommendation to the PUC on the rate increases before January.


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