Eminent Domain Abuse in Edgewood, NM

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
Jerry Powers

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20 Replies to “Eminent Domain Abuse in Edgewood, NM”

  1. Be careful when they hold the VOTE!!!El dorado suppressed a major portion of the community to pass the acquisition of the water company!!!! Beware of who is backing the mayor

  2. I am a member of the same group of concerned citizens as Mr. Powers. As it happens nearly a third of Epcor water customers live outside of the Town limits. I live in Torrance County, thus am unable to vote against the perpetrators of this highly unpopular Town takeover. Citizens who live within Town limits are served by one of two water systems: Epcor or the Entranosa Cooperative, or they live on private wells. However, it is obvious everyone who lives within the Town limits regardless of water source will be negatively affected by a tripling of the Town’s debt load. There is not a single household that will be positively affected by this action, yet the mayor, supported unfailingly by two of his four council members marches on down this perilous path. He must be stopped.

  3. My family moved to Edgewood about ten years ago. The only problem we have ever had is the water. Our skin feels like sandpaper, we are constantly replacing our washer( about once a year), hot water heater, shower heads, and faucets, because of the calcium build up. It’s not fun when the hot water goes out in the middle of Winter, esspecially when you have small children. On top of that, I can even own a dishwasher because the dishes look dirtier that when I put them in. It’s not even tolerable to drink. It’s white, grity, and it tastes like Alka Seltzer. We have tried putting in water softeners but yet we still end up with the same outcome. I am for small businesses, however this is ridiculous. The fact that my family has discussed moving from our home over this should tell you how bad the situation is. We have spent thousands on all those replacements, so when I hear that my bill may double, but I get drinkable water, and I get to keep my appliances. I’m am delighted to hear that someone is finally doing something about this.

    1. I have talked to people in Edgewood and my understanding is the water is due to the geology of the region. Not sure how a forcible government takeover of the water supply will improve the quality of water. If you know that they have specific plans to improve the water I’d be interested to know.

    2. Scarlette,

      I understand your frustration with the hard water we have in the east mountains. But Edgewood’s Eminent domain takeover of EPCOR has nothing to do with improving the hard water.
      Epcor has offered to build a water filtration plant to support its approx 2400 customers of its water system. Estimates for this are 8M+. The cost would be recouped from rate payers over time. But at 2400 customers that would be a high rate increase. A survey was conducted to all customers and overwhelmingly they opted for in house filtration and keeping rates as is.
      The town at a minimum would face the exact same issue if they owned it. But they would have a masive debt load incurred by paying for system as well as legal fees. Your looking at 14M -28M+ on current estimates by both town and opposition. Edgewood’s budget is substantially less. Do the math. Also dont forget they also have a problem waste water system which they are in state violation and was not desgned for current use and they have been fighting that issues for years with no resolution.
      If your looking for hope that water hardness is reduced I suggest getting neighbors on board and that re-engaging EPCOR who is willing if wanted to put one in. The real issue is this all water in the East Mountains is very hard and the amount of people are small to spread costs with.
      Also EPCOR is not a small business they are a large water utility in the US and Canada running very good water systems in all communities. They bought out this system from previous companies and have been fixing the system and its much more reliable than it was under previous businesses. They have a good track record with there utilities. The town wants the system because it affords them new revenue streams, ability to levy bonds using the water company assets, eligible for more state/federal money which they can use without citizen approval. All this at the expense of you got it, citizens of edgewood, customers of Epcor. In the end this fight essentially is fighting ourselves as we pay on the water side and on the town side as well.
      This is a bad idea for Edgewood citizens and water customers. They would be better served working with EPCOR (who has in past administrations done just that).

    3. Scarlette

      What makes you think the water will be better if the city of Edgewood takes over??? They can’t even get a sewer going, let alone provide water that is potable. They also are unable to keep someone to operate the sewer plant.
      If you believe all the promises, then I shall sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. have you ever thought of installing a water softener? it works very well for us and has worked well for 20 years.Something to think about!!!

  4. I agree with Carl’s assessment on this issue. We’d certainly have less leverage with the Town of Edgewood than we currently do with EPCOR. Water quality is definitely a concern, but without adequate support from the Citizens EPCOR cannot take on this initiative in a vacuum and increase rates to improve water quality. EPCOR believes the lack of support for the filtration system is mostly due to additional operating cost to the small farms and ranches in the area. I’m not sure if I agree with their assessment but there is no question some citizens would rather purchase bottled water and in-house filtration system than a higher monthly rate. I for one wouldn’t mind paying a little more for the convenience although we accidentally figured out a solution but I’d rather not deal with the hassle that comes along with maintaining the filtration system.

  5. I have lived here for 35 years..yes the water is horrible but if the town takes over the water company the rates and taxes are going through the roof and water quality wont change.that water system will seem like pocket change the mayor has a hidden agenda! that explains the closed door meetings

  6. Even if EdgeWood was to manage to buy out the water company do they have the expertise to run a water company, which includes all maintence like lines, pumps, meters regulators, etc. What about equipment like backhoes, trucks, trenchers and salaries, benefits for field, office, engineering and administrative staff? The list goes on I’m sure. I have no dog in this fight as I’m on part of Entranosa‘s system but I feel for the people who are on the Edgewood system, especially those who are outside the Town of Edgewood who will probably not a get a very fair shake on such takeover.

  7. I am wondering if all this does not also tie into the whole Campbell Ranch issue. As many of you know that was not able to get off the ground due to water access. Would Edgewood be able to give Campbell what they want if they acquire EPCORE? It would certainly bring in more revenue for Edgewood.

  8. The Mayor and town Council needs to focus their attention on what the citizens need and want and not on their own personal gains.

  9. I’m not a supporter of a city manager/commission, but I’ve also had first hand experience (and contradictory experience) regarding EPCOR’s claim of quickly fixing leaks. Oct. 2014; While I was looking for my new home in Edgewood, I discovered a water main break on “their” side of the main. Nearly the entire front yard was flooded. I immediately called EPCOR about this water leak and was told “since you don’t own the property, we can’t service any leak”. I explained that this leak was on THEIR side of the main, yet they didn’t seem to care. Well, the house is exactly what I need, so we moved forward with buying. I called EPCOR again and explained that we had started the process of buying the house. They were still adamant about not doing anything until the house was owned. Finally we closed on the house on Jan. 1st 2015. By now, the flood had become a forested ice rink complete with ice crystals sticking up over 6″ above the ground. Nearly a dozen trees have their roots frozen hard. I called EPCOR the day after I closed and yet again explained the leak. They said it would be some time before they could get anyone out to fix it. At this point, I was not in any mood for their waffling. I suggested to EPCOR that if due to their inaction in repairing their leak, any further damage to my new property would result in a lawsuit. I suppose that’s what it took. By 7am the very next day, EPCOR was out there digging out the pipes and repairing the leak. Unfortunately, the extended flooding and hard freeze killed over a dozen trees. I’ve never had to crab at a utility company so much to get them to fix their own problem. Since then, its been hit or miss regarding EPCOR’s responsiveness to concerns. Sometimes their people seem genuinely interested in helping, but the rest of the time it just seems like they don’t care. Is it because Corporate is in Canada (about as far away from Edgewood as they can be)?

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