by KIM HILSENBECK
A streak of woes for Monarch Utilities LC appears to continue.
At the Kyle City Council meeting this week, the council unanimously passed an ordinance to reject and dismiss the private water utility’s request to increase its meter rates 62 percent on a system-wide basis.
Monarch has exclusive rights to provide water to about an eighth of the homes in Kyle, most in the Amberwood and Indian Paintbrush subdivisions in the northeast part of town.
About 20 angry residents from those two communities spoke at the January 9 City Council meeting opposing the rate hike. The main theme was that a 62 percent increase in water bills would cause financial hardship; many residents said they would be forced to move if it passed.
Residents also cited concerns about poor water quality, low pressure, unfair billing practices and other issues with Monarch, whose parent company is SouthWest Water Co.
In January, the council voted to suspend the rate increase request for 90 days while it reviewed the 1,700-page document related to the request.
The city also questioned the legality of a rate hike while awaiting the outcome of a regulatory decision; Monarch requested permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to acquire seven other water utilities around the state.
Jim Boyle, an attorney working on Kyle’s behalf, said the data presented by Monarch in support of the increase was not based on expenses for its operations in Kyle, but rather commingled data from seven utilities outside of Kyle’s jurisdiction.
“It’s a phantom utility,” Boyle said. “It does not exist.”
Company officials have said rate increases are necessary to recoup $70 million spent replacing old pipes, upgrading sewer treatment plants and drilling new wells.
Kyle’s new ordinance also prohibits Monarch from imposing late fees on bills that are paid within 30 days of issuance. In addition, the utility will have to paint its fire hydrants red to indicate they have sufficient flow for use by firefighters.
According to the ordinance, Monarch can request a rate increase only for costs, expenses and revenues of Monarch, not the other utilities it wants to acquire.
- Water utility backs off 62% rate increase 05/8/2012
- Monarch settles for smaller rate hike in Buda, Kyle 05/21/2012
- Fishy water bill 09/22/2010