Homeowners want correct BMSC rebate

By Curtis Riggs | July 15, 2009

ACC rate hearing Sept. 21
CAREFREE – With a rate increase for the Black Mountain Sewer Company looming, people in the Carefree Estates subdivision are asking for the town's help collecting the last rebate from the sewer company, ordered by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) nearly three years ago.

The ACC ordered the sewer company to rebate $833,000 in sewer hookup fees in November of 2006. The 33 Carefree Estates homeowners were short-changed because the sewer company made one $412.12 payment to the Carefree Estates Homeowners Association, the amount intended for each household served by Black Mountain Sewer. Despite many complaints to the town, the sewer company and the ACC, the Carefree Estates homeowners have had to wait until the next sewer company rate increase to collect the money due to them.

The ACC granted the Black Mountain Sewer Company a 20 percent rate increase in November 2006. It ordered the increase would not go into effect until the rebates were properly paid out.

The ACC will begin hearings on BMSC’s request for a 58 percent rate increase on Sept. 21.

Although Administrative Law Judge Dwight D. Nodes ordered the sewer company to repay the sewer hookup fees to 2,056 Black Mountain Sewer customers in 2006, he has since refused to deal with the Carefree Estates problem. He maintains he does not have the authority to require the company to pay the Carefree Estates rebates, according to Carefree Town Attorney Tom Chenal.

"Judge Nodes said they would wait until the next rate increase and that is now," said Chenal, who is close to the Carefree Estates issue because Carefree has filed as an intervener in the new rate case.

Carefree Mayor David Schwan agrees with Chenal that Carefree Estates homeowners were not paid because of a technicality. He said Chenal and other Carefree officials will be watching the current case closely to see the rebates are paid properly.

"Everyone involved in the process agrees we should have received the correct refund," Carefree Estates HOA president Brian Kincaid said. "We didn't get paid because of a technicality."

Kincaid feels the Carefree Estates homeowners will receive the full rebates because of the current rate case.

"I think it will happen now," he said. "It seems like the former town administration was not overly aggressive in getting this resolved and did not bring it to a finish."

"We want assurances we will be included in the rate hearing," Kincaid said. "It was never clear why we had to wait three years to get this."

Kincaid is also concerned about a 58-percent Black Mountain Sewer rate hike, which would increase an average bill from $45 to $71 a month.