The Village of Edgewood, NM is in the East Mountains just outside of Albuquerque. It is currently served by a privately-owned water company, something that is quite common. The Town of Edgewood, led by its Mayor, is looking at using the power of “eminent domain” to forcibly TAKE the Town’s privately owned water company.
The following was written by Edgewood resident and guest columnist Jerry Powers:
Unfortunately, Edgewood Mayor John Bassett has taken it on himself, without a council vote, to authorize the town’s attorney to write a letter to Epcor on May 17, 2018, stating:
“The purpose of this letter is to formally express the Town’s intent to purchase or begin condemnation proceedings to acquire the Epcor Edgewood Water System (“System”).”
When Edgewood residents got wind of this action by the Mayor, residents demanded a public meeting (in July 2018) where residents expressed their overwhelming disapproval of these actions. Despite this, the Mayor and Councilors Holle and Abrams have continued to take actions to further the project including spending over $35,000 on an engineering report and have since spent town funds on attorney’s fees regarding this project. They have also continued to discuss the project in closed meetings, behind closed doors, outside of public view.
Recently several residents, including myself, have made repeated requests of the Mayor and council to hold public hearings on the matter before it comes to a vote, with no response. Without these public hearings, a vote could be put on the agenda and voted on by the council at any time without adequate input from the public.
Besides the obvious and glaring avoidance and disregard of public input, there are numerous problems with the town’s acquisition of the water system that will have negative effects for years to come:
1. Epcor won’t voluntarily sell the system. This means the Town will have to use “Condemnation” or Eminent Domain to “take” the water system. There are numerous studies and case history examples where the original estimates in condemnation proceedings have routinely ended up double or even triple the estimates! (Search on http://truthfromthetap.com/condemnation/ to see the studies for yourself)
2. The engineering report estimates the acquisition will cost us $14,000,000. If accurate, this would increase the town’s long-term debt to 240% of current levels. If the estimate is low, as case study after case study suggest, the new debt could actually be as high as $28,000,000 and would increase long-term debt to 380% of current levels! This would be the single largest purchase and increase in debt since the Town’s incorporation and yet it is all happening behind closed doors.
3. We have our own local example in El Dorado, just outside Santa Fe. The initial projected cost to acquire the water system was $6,000,000. After condemnation the cost was over $12,000,000! This caused hookup fees to go up by $11,000 and their rates are now the highest in the state! In addition, El Dorado added a 4% property tax to help fund the ill-advised takeover, which is paid separately from the record high water rates!
4. If Edgewood condemns the Epcor water system and it goes like the studies and case histories suggest, our rates would at least double. An average family of 3 would pay about $140-180 per month!
5. Right now, we the citizens and rate-payers are protected from unnecessary and unreasonable rate increases by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC). Epcor is subject to PRC regulation and must prove the necessity and reasonableness of any and all rate increases. Once the water system is owned by the Town, water rates are completely unregulated!
Given these facts, the overwhelming public disapproval at the July 2018 public meeting, and the Mayor’s campaign promise to listen to the people and only do what’s in their best interests, why is this hostile takeover proceeding?
If you believe that the Town should listen to the people and want to stop this costly, ill-conceived boondoggle, please sign the online petition before the town is mired in debt and a several-year-long legal battle that could double or triple our water rates. The petition can be signed at www.eyeonedgewood.com