GUAM WATER COMMISSION OKS 14 PERCENT RATE HIKE

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By Lacee A.C. Martinez

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 12) - The Consolidated Commission on Utilities late last night voted to approve a water rate increase that was higher than initially proposed.

The Guam Waterworks Authority initially requested for an 11.3 percent adjustment to pay US$7.7 million in annual principal and interest payments on bond money borrowed for the agency's improvement projects.

During last night's discussion, a request for a 14.24 percent increase was made to factor in increasing power bills and water GWA buys from the Navy, GWA spokeswoman Heidi Ballendorf said.

The approved 14.2 percent increase means the average customer can expect to see an overall increase of just under US$4 on their bill. The Public Utilities Commission must still approve the increase.

The water agency has used bond money to pay for about US$100 million worth of projects to improve the island's water and wastewater systems as required by a federal court order.

The PUC is expected to meet next month for both water and power rate-increase issues.

Last month, CCU members ratified the Guam Power Authority's plan to increase the "fuel recovery charge" portion of everyone's power bill by 11.87 percent. For a household with average power usage, that translates into an increase of US$11 to US$15 a month, the commission has said.

The Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause determines the rate of the fuel-recovery-charge portion of customers' power bills. The power agency collects that charge to pay for the fuel needed to operate its generators.

The power agency files a petition to the Public Utilities Commission about every six months to adjust the fuel recovery charge, depending on the quantity and price of oil that it plans to purchase for the next six-month period.

GWA customer John Pangelinan spoke against the rate increase during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying GWA has not sought additional federal funding to reduce the amount and frequency of rate increases.

"The people can't afford what's going on right now," Pangelinan told the board. "Yes, the community should take the burden of this, but you have funding sources at the federal level that has to be tapped."

Before discussing the rate increase, CCU members approved to change the single chief financial officer position that oversees both utilities into two CFO positions for each utility.

CCU General Manager John Benavente noted that current CFO Randall Wiegand suggested he would be more efficient if placed solely under the power agency.

In the resolution, the board added a provision to explore opportunities for consolidation in the CFO position again. Six months after being hired, each CFO must report suggestions about where consolidation would be appropriate in its finance and budgeting processes.

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