UES seeking another rate increase

PRESCOTT VALLEY - UniSource Energy Services is asking for a second rate hike in less than a year.

The utility is seeking a 7 percent rate increase from the Arizona Corporation Commission on the heals of a roughly 4 percent hike commissioners granted this past November.

The request would add an average of $4.34 per month to customers' accounts.

That means customers will pay nearly $8 more a month in the winter months and about $6.30 more during the summer months.

Stephanie Dugan is surprised the utility is seeking another increase so soon.

Dugan said she is concerned that UES is going to make these rate increases a trend.

"We're at the mercy of what the corporation commission decides," she said. "I hope they will do their research and find a good basis before they raise rates."

Nikki Lorton said her most recent gas bill was around $87.

"There is no other gas company unless you go with propane and I don't want to switch," she said.

UES filed the rate increase request with the ACC Thursday afternoon.

The proposed increase would take effect in Spring 2009 through a tiered plan designed to get customers to cut back on their gas usage in the winter months and lower their bills.

Joe Salkowski, director of corporate communications for the utility, said this request is to cover system additions and improvements that commissioners did not factor into the November increase.

"We don't like asking for higher rates any more than our customers like paying them, but the size of the investments we've made in our gas infrastructure over the last two years really forced our hand," he said.

Commissioner William Mundell said he has not had a chance to review the newest request.

"My inclination is always to protect the rate payer," he said. "I'll look at this application with that same perspective. If appropriate, I will vote against it."