Oct

21

Rep. Gooden talks about Monarch Water

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : October 21, 2011

 

State Rep. Lance Gooden

Dear Friends,

This update will be of particular interest to the almost 3,000 ratepayers in Henderson County that are customers of Monarch Water. For the majority of the citizens of Henderson and Kaufman Counties, water service is provided by city governments or water supply corporations with a city council or governing board made up of local residents that are held accountable to the people they represent.

As an example, I live in the city of Terrell and the city provides water service to my house. If there was a problem with my water service or a discrepancy with my water bill, I would call the city of Terrell water department and the matter (in most cases) would be resolved quickly. If my problem wasn’t resolved, I might escalate the matter to my city councilman and expect him to get involved. I would also expect to be charged a fair price for water service and not to be billed for water I did not use. That seems reasonable, right?

For about 3,000 citizens in Henderson County that live near or on Cedar Creek Lake or Lake Palestine, the simple scenario I describe above is a dream that never comes true. When many of the housing developments were built along the lake areas in Henderson County, the water systems were installed by developers looking to make a profit by selling their assets and exiting as soon as possible. In many cases, developers sold the water systems to Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), private enterprises that manage water systems for a profit. One of these IOUs, Monarch Water, owns many of the water systems in the Cedar Creek Lake and Lake Palestine areas and has made huge profits due to increasing water rates. They have raised their rates again this year, and in some cases households are paying over $100 per month for water service, even if they don’t turn on the faucet during the month.

Many of my colleagues who don’t understand IOUs because they don’t have them in their districts often ask me, “Don’t you support a free market and a business’s right to make a profit?” My answer is always an emphatic “yes;” however, a business that is a monopoly doesn’t have to compete in the marketplace. Furthermore, Monarch is a monopoly whose product is water, something we all need to live. Not only can my constituents not shop around for a better price, but they can’t even refuse to buy the product because they must have water to live.

I stood up to the IOUs this last session and used a point of order to kill a major piece of legislation that the for-profit water monopolies wanted in order to raise rates without a hearing. Due to the overwhelming number of rate payer protests of the recent Monarch rate increase, the Monarch water rate case has been transferred from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to the Office of State Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Monday, an informal preliminary hearing was held in Austin to take public comment and identify parties affected by the increase. The next step will be a formal evidentiary hearing where all participants will be able to present evidence and testimony concerning Monarch’s rate application. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presides over the hearing and sends his recommendation to the TCEQ. The TCEQ will weigh the recommendation along with other factors to make a decision whether to approve or deny Monarch’s application. As things stand today, the process is in the discovery phase prior to the evidentiary hearing.

Due to a statute on the books, Monarch has raised their rates to reflect proposed rates in their applications. I have written a formal letter to the presiding ALJ asking for a suspension of the new rates until a decision has been made regarding Monarch’s pending applications. The letter is attached for your review. In September, I met with a number of members from Texans Against Monopolies’ Excessive Rates (TAMER) in the Lake Palestine area. I always come away from these meetings with a renewed sense of urgency to put a stop to the predatory rate-making of these monopolies, something that will only finally be accomplished with Legislative action.

For those that require assistance paying their water bill, H20 – Help2Others is a customer based support program, funded by Monarch Utilities and its employees, designed to offer bill payment assistance to our water and wastewater customers. H20 will assist Monarch customers whose combined household incomes fall at or below the 100% bracket according to the current Federal Poverty Level.

For Questions concerning where to apply for assistance, please contact:

Family Resource Center, 107 Spring Valley, Gun Barrel City, TX 75147, 903-887-4711
Henderson County Help Center, 309 Royal, Athens, TX 75751, 903-675-4351

I appreciate all the phone calls, emails, and meetings by affected constituents. We have a long road ahead, but I am confident we will win in the end.

Take care and God bless,

Lance Gooden
State Representative
District 4

Comments (7)

  1. Ron Strickland said on 25-10-2011

    Is it not a wonder that Jesse Donelson lives in Athens ? and can make such negative comments , wonder when was the last time he wrote a check to Monarch to pay his water bill ? From the way he is talking I wouldnt be surprised if he was not somehow associated with Monarch !

    Its amazing how when people or government trying to help their fellow man in these hard economic times , so upsets others, if only for the reason is that it does not benefit them . I bet if Mr. Donelson’s Representative was trying to help keep his electricity rates down , he would not be posting comments about how it cost so much more now days to keep up with the raising costs of maintaining the electricity infrastructure .
    A far as his statement “A predatory company does not turn around assist the people they are “preying” on ” goes, I wonder what his definition of the Human Resource Dept. in most major companies is ? ‘i was under the impression that one of their major .duties is to help employees that have issues or problems in the VERY SAME company they work for !

    • Jesse Donelson said on 26-10-2011

      I don’t see how my comments were negative. I guess, being that Mr. Strickland did not agree, obviously I’m wrong and he’s right and my comments were negative. Exactly what comments were negative.
      1st of all, Mr. Strickland, you don’t know me, so don’t presume to know what I would or would not post.
      It’s funny how instead of stating your case, you make it a personal attack on me. You want to make it personal, OK; Gooden is the one preying. Preying on people’s frustration to get votes.
      And since you insist on presuming what I would do, I’m going to presume you, if you owned a company, would want to make a profit. What profit percentage would you want to make? 7%? 9% Can you tell me that?

    • Jesse Donelson said on 26-10-2011

      Further more, Mr. Strickland, If you had actually read Gooden’s letter, H2O refers to an assistance program set up by Monarch and it’s employees to help customers, not employees. What does that have to do with Human Resources helping employees. Perhaps you should understand what you’re reading before you try to be sarcastic and attack someone.
      And Gooden should check with the city of Terrell because every water company I know of charges a minimum bill, whether you use water or not, the City of Athens does and Terrell as well. If I didn’t use an ounce of water all month, I would still get a water bill, with sewer and trash charges as well.
      Next time, just state your case instead of attacking me, because it doesn’t bother me, it just makes you look like you don’t really have a case to state.

  2. Jesse Donelson said on 21-10-2011

    On another note, its odd how you can attack Monarch as a predatory rate making monopoly, then turn around and mention H2O, funded by Monarch Utilities and its employees, A predatory company does not turn around assist the people they are “preying” on.

  3. Jesse Donelson said on 21-10-2011

    People will pay over $3 for gas, $300+ plus a month for electricity, over a dollar for a soda, $8 for a 6 pack of beer, $50 for a carton of cigarettes, and even a $1+ for a bottle of water, but these very same people will will gripe about water rates. Safe drinking water is expensive to provide, especially when it’s surface water. And a private water company IS a business, and they are not in it to lose money or break even. City’s charge less because they can, they get tax money and are not in it to turn a profit. You may pay less with a city, but you have property tax and sales tax. The cost of water treatment is not cheap. It gets more expensive all the time. Treatment, testing, sampling, regulations, electricty, and the price of fuel, then you got to pay workers… it adds up to an incredible amount of overhead. The raw lake water itself is not even free. Southwest Water has to pay Tarrant County for the raw water used ae Cedar Creek before it even gets treated. Water will more and more become a precious commodity.

    • Charlene Fugler said on 08-12-2011

      Mr. Donelson,

      I agree that most cities charge a minimum rate for water. I moved to Texas in 2006, from Louisiana where I was born and raised. There I always had and paid for rural utility water. In 21 years I lived in my own home before moving to Texas in 2006, my rate was never raised. When we moved to Lake Palestine in 2007, the base rate for water was $36.10. It is now $53.47 as of the November bill and the usage was $28.00. That is for two people with no kids and no landscaping. I understand wanting to make a profit. But asking for increases every two years, especially across the board, and including utilities in the proposal that are not even owned yet, is predatory. If you wonder where I got this information, I am a member of a neighborhood board and one of our members communicates with TAMER. I have no problem with business interests. But when people cannot afford to use a commodity that is necessary for daily sustenance, there is a problem.

    • Charlene Fugler said on 08-12-2011

      In response to your comment regarding the expense of treatment, workers, etc., it seems cities and other rural utilities are able to provide water services for reasonable prices so that argument does not make sense to me either.

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