If Nevada Senate Minority leader Michael Roberson has his way, the Southern Nevada Water Authority will actually lose some of that authority to the Public Utilities Commission. Specifically, the power to raise rates.
Roberson says “A lot of people in Southern Nevada have a real problem” with what he characterizes as a lack of accountability and transparency by the SNWA. “A lot of people” includes state senators from both parties who support Roberson’s bill.
“The most recent example was this past year when water rates were raised by over 300 percent on many small businesses in southern Nevada, without a lot of opportunity for public input, or input from the businesses that would be affected,” says Roberson.
The senator believes the three-person Public Utilities Commission appointed by the Governor would offer more objective oversight of water rates.
“Right now you have Southern Nevada Water Authority board, which is made up of local government officials,” says Roberson. “I’m not looking to be critical here, but the fact is politics do influence their decisions.”
SNWA General Manger Pat Mulroy says the choice to raise rates for small businesses was made to spare homeowners additional costs.
“We had an existing debt service, or in layman’s terms, mortgage payment that we have to make,” says Mulroy. “There was never any dispute over the size of the overall rate increase. The entire issue was who was going to pay for it. The board was given three choices and it chose the option that protected the residential customer.”
Mulroy challenges Roberson’s ‘lack of transparency’ charge, saying that SWVA held five public hearings and three public workshops around the valley, as well as meetings with the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, and gamers.
“Of course the folks at Southern Nevada Water authority are going to say ‘everything’s fine, there’s nothing to see here,” says Roberson. “A lot of us disagree, and that’s why we’re going to have this discussion in Carson City this session.”