2014

TAMER MEETING OCT 18

TAMER is planning to have its annual meeting on October 18, 2014 at the West Lake Baptist Church, Chandler, Texas. The church is located approximately 5 1/2 miles south of Chandler on FM 315. The meeting will begin at 11 AM with registration and opening of the meeting.

At 12 noon we will be serving a BBQ luncheon to all attendees. We are asking for a donation of $8/plate - more if you feel like it. Hopefully we will have our great BBQ Team that provided us with a great meal last year.

David Frederick, our attorney, will provide an overview of the past year, the future dealing with the PUC & OPUC and what we as TAMER need to be doing. Additionally several of the present board will review the settlement reached at the recent SOAH Hearing.

Additionally we will be holding elections for board members. Consequently we are looking for people who are willing to join the board and continue the fight against Monarch/SWWC and the other large IOU's. A few of the board members will not be staying on the board, so it is time for others to step forward and make sure we continue the battle and help the consumer.

If you have items you would like placed on the Agenda please let me know.

WE NEED RSVP'S FROM YOU TO BE SURE WE PREPARE ENOUGH FOOD AND DRINKS - NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO START PLANNING TO BE HERE.

Regards,

Orville

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RSVP THROUGH THE WILDEWOOD CONTACT PAGE WE WILL FORWARD IT TO THE CORRECT PERSON.

T.A.M.E.R. Water Update

TAMER UPDATE – 7-1-14

This update will cover several different items that should be of interest to all. This is being done in a Word document so that you may print out just the document and share it with all. Let us begin with the most recent Monarch rate case and work through all of the various cases.

1.A.TAMER VS MONARCH – As you are aware last August Monarch sent out a letter to all of the Monarch ratepayers, both cities and environs listing a 2-stage rate increase beginning January 1, 2014. On Wednesday June 25, 2015 a SOAH Hearing was held in Austin to determine the outcome of the rate case.
1. The following parties were involved in this case – TAMER, Holiday Villages of Fork (represented by Gary George), Denton County Estates (represented by Kathy Nielsen), The Coalition of Cities (Ivanhoe, Buda & Kyle represented by Jim Boyle, attorney), The City of Oak Point (represented by Art Rodriquez, attorney), Monarch (represented by Lambeth Townsend & Mark Zeppa, attorneys & Chuck Profilet, Monarch VP), TCEQ (do not know who was there), OPUC (4attorneys and other staff) all under the control of two SOAH Judges – Elizabeth Drews & Kerry Jo Qualtro. In addition there were about 60 other people there for the hearing and all of those are TAMER members.
2. The offices of Senator Nichols – Adrianne Evans, Senator Eltife – Ryan Wieseman and Representative Flynn – Amanda were present at the hearing and spoke on behalf of the ratepayers.
3. The Office of Public Utility Counsels (OPUC) Spokesperson was Laurie Barker, Deputy Public Counsel, and she and the team from OPUC worked entirely for the Environs ratepayer. They did a wonderful job in conjunction with our attorney David Frederick.
4. While the meeting was supposed to have started at 10AM it seems the building maintenance people had not gotten the word to set up the room. Between the SOAH Judges, the OPUC people and the TAMER folks we set up most of the room and the maintenance folks finally got the sound system working. The meeting finally began around 10:30 AM and ended about 5 PM.

With this background let us get into the meat of the settlement agreed to by TAMER, Monarch, OPUC & the SOAH Judges. Additionally Gary George signed off for Holiday Villages of Fork and our attorney David Frederick signed off for Kathy Nielsen who had left early. Here is the meat of the settlement:
a. The 4.5% increase will not go into effect on July 1, 2015 – more detail below
b. The 9.9% that is in effect now will remain in effect through December 31, 2014
c. On January 1, 2015 a 3% increase will go into effect instead of the 4.5% increase. A reduction of 1.5%. It will e added to the already 9.9% and this will run until at least January 1, 2016.
d. Monarch agreed to not file for any rate increases until after January 1, 2016. This means that they then will be totally under the PUC & OPUC for rate cases, CCN’s and other items. TCEQ will be charged with the maintaining of quality, health issues and other items.
e. Monarch agreed to absorb their legal & expert fees for this case. Keep in mind that this is a substantial sum, since the meter has been running from last August when they sent out the rate increase notices. We have to pay our legal and expert fees.
f. Monarch agreed that “No Rate Case Base” would be established in this case. This means that they will not be able to establish their invested costs until they file a case under the PUC. This is a blessing for us since the rules on equipment are much more stringent under the PUC, plus they must really detail all of these things – which they never did under the TECQ.
g. Monarch agreed to place a notice in their billings describing the complaint process and procedures.
h. True up on winter average for new sewer customer after one year of winter averaging
i. All provisions of the settlement apply to both water & sewer.

In summary, no one like to compromise, however if you look at this realistically you will see that over the next 18 months or so we were able to save all of the Monarch environs customer about $2 million in rates, another perhaps $400,000 in legal fees and move all of the future cases under the PUC with OPUC on our side.

Many compliments to David Frederick (who has stuck with us through thick & thin), Larry Gumpert & wife from Governors Point, Lynea Weatherly from Lake Medina Shores, Shaunett & Rick Higbee from Carolynn Estates, Gary George from Holiday Villages of Fork for making the trip and staying with us through the negotiations. I am sure I have missed some who were there and helped.

A. THE COALITION OF CITIES VS. MONARCH – This group consists of Buda, Ivanhoe & Kyle for the purpose of this hearing. As you know cities have an advantage over environs customers in that they may refuse the new rates until a settlement is reached. This group did reach a settlement that is different than ours, but I cannot give any information about this until each city council has approved the settlement and Monarch, TCEQ & SOAH have signed off. OPUC was not involved in this settlement.

B. THE CITY OF BLUE MOUND VS.MONARCH - We learned that Blue Mound & Monarch had reached a tentative settlement prior to the hearing. Blue Mound was not present at the hearing. No details at this point.

C. THE CITY OF OAK POINT – Art Rodriquez, attorney for the City of Oak Point reached a tentative settlement with Monarch. Again no details are available until the city council and all others have signed off.



2. HORNSBY BEND & WATER UTILITIES VS SWWC – While these two cases were combined as one for the purpose of the hearing on Monday June 23, 2014 it is our understanding that the settlements are somewhat different. Let me separate them for you.

A. HORNSBY BEND VS. SWWC – While I do not have complete details on the settlement I do know that a settlement was reached. Thomas Fritzinger, a TAMER Board member, may at this point have a more complete picture that he can share with us. Incidentally through the work of David Frederick we were able to bring the Texas Rio Grand Legal Assistance group into the case because of the large number of low-income families in this area. A lady by the name of Melia O’Dell, a ratepayer, became involved and will be very helpful going forward. Many thanks to the TRLA for providing assistance. David Frederick and TAMER were involved in this settlement.

B. WATER UTILITIES VS. SWWC – This case was settled and the only person representing this group was a Charles Costanza. He had previously gotten a lot of help from our legal counsel, but during the hearing did not recognize David or TAMER. Kestrel Air Park & Rim Rock Ranch, TAMER members, were not represented at the hearing. Since TAMER was not invited into the negotiations we were not able to help. In looking over the settlement we, TAMER, or our attorney would have agreed to the settlement. Frankly it is a poor settlement in my opinion.

3. WHAT IS NEXT - Even though the rate case is over our work is not done. TAMER & our legal team intend to be involved in the Rules & Regulations proceeding that are and will be taking place by the PUC & OPUC staff. We know that the big 6 IOU’s are already lobbying these people for rules favorable to them.

What can you do to help this process? The first thing you need to do is contact your State Senator & State Representative to let them know that we need their help in getting rules and regulations that protect the ratepayer/consumer on an ongoing basis. If you would like to be part of the group working with the PUC & OPUC on this please let us know.

5. FINANCIAL – Even though the rate case is over that does not mean that TAMER’s role in the ongoing battle with the 6 big IOU’s is over. While it is great that in September 2014 will be transitioning to the PUC from the TCEQ there is much work to be done before the first rate cases begin to pop up. Yes, the OPUC attorneys are going to be on our side, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to have our own attorney and continue to raise funds. As time goes forward we need to be sure that we have the necessary finances to help shape the rules, have experts on our side and continue to work with our legal firm.

For those of you who have contributed generously you have all of the Boards heartfelt thanks. For those of you who have benefited since 1998 and have contributed little or nothing - WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOU TO HELP? Even it is 5 dollars, send a check. Frankly it is time to do something. We need your dollars now to pay our legal fees and continue helping all captive Monarch/SWWC ratepayers.
6. FUTURE TAMER MEETINGS - We are planning an annual meeting in October 2015 and would hope that at least one person from each of the subdivisions, cities that are members would be present. More on this later. There are several board members who plan to retire at that time. Some of us have been doing this since 1998 and it is time for others to take over.

In closing let me express my thanks to C. A. Cockrell, Jay Wiesner, Bill Hudgins, David Frederick & John Layford for once again rising to the occasion of “saving our Bacon.”

Orville

Water Case Settlement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 26, 2014
T.A.M.E.R. and Monarch Utilities Settle Rate Case

Ratepayers challenging Monarch Utilities’ most recent water and sewer rate increases reached a settlement with the utility Wednesday.

Orville Bevel, President of T.A.M.ER. (“Texans Against Monopolies’ Excessive Rates”), which is the largest of the protesting parties, said that his group is reasonably satisfied with settlement. T.A.M.E.R. represents roughly 80 homeowners associations and a number of individuals spread over 22 of the counties served by Monarch. The settlement basically delayed and reduced a scheduled rate increase and locked in a freeze period during which Monarch agreed not to file for further rate increases.

“No one really likes a settlement,” said Bevel, of Chandler on Lake Palestine. “I consider this one acceptable but not great. It locks in rates for the next 18 months, at least until 2016. This is the last of the Monarch rate increases that will be decided under the old regulatory system, which favors utilities and, even, urban/city ratepayers over rural ratepayers. We decided this settlement was the smartest thing to do, given our resources and given the prospect of a much more level playing field after September 1st.” T.A.M.E.R. and its legislative allies, principally Senators Nichols and Watson and Representative Geren, were instrumental in re-writing the State’s water and sewer utility laws last legislative session. Also many kudos to Representatives Flynn, Gooden, Larkin & White and Senator Deuell & Eltife in getting the legislation passed during the 2013 Legislative Session.

T.A.M.E.R. board member CA Cockrell, who lives at Callendar Lake between Tyler and Dallas, was similarly pleased. “We got the ratepayers a slightly better deal. That is a good thing. Ratepayers usually have to pay not only their own litigation costs but, also, the utility’s litigation costs, and this settlement avoided the risk of several 100s of thousands of dollars being assessed against the ratepayers.”

Bill Hudgins, another T.A.M.E.R. board member living in Magnolia/Houston area, lauded the help given ratepayers Wednesday by the Office of Public Utility Counsel (“OPUC”). “This State agency became involved because of the new legislation, and the OPC lawyer was a marvelous help to the ratepayers this time around. Unfortunately, a Monarch water and sewer customer is still paying $110 or more each month before using a drop of water or flushing a single commode, so we have a lot of work yet to do.”

For additional information, please contact Orville Bevel at 903-312-9197 or go to www.TamerTx.org