The proposed decision of ALJ Weatherford in this matter was mailed to the parties in accordance with Section 311 of the Public Utilities Code and comments were allowed under Rule 14.3 of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure. Comments were filed by each party on December 22, 2011, and reply comments were filed on December 27, 2011, by Complainants.
Complainants contest the allowance of expenses associated with management of the water system116 and with water-related meter-reading and billing.117 Complainants cite inadequacies in Sunbird's record keeping and in its responses to Commission staff requests, invoking Standard Practice U-3-SM as a basis for judgment. They argue that an allowance of the subject expenses will have the precedential effect of encouraging lax accounting in mobile home park water systems.
While Sunbird's documentation and reporting of the contested expenses were deficient by general utility standards, the amounts allowed in the Proposed Decision are reasonable under the circumstances. Standard Practices are guidelines for the Commission staff in the ongoing regulation of investor-owned water utilities. They are not mandates upon those utilities. Even less are they binding standards on mobile home parks that are not public utilities and that are subject to Commission jurisdiction only on the basis of ad hoc complaints of residents.
Complainants comments118 seeking a reading of § 2705.6 that would authorize retrospective rate relief are not persuasive. No revisions related to that issue were made in the Proposed Decision.
Defendants seek to have the meter reading expenses allocated 100 percent to water service for months in which there is no separate charges for water and septic and a relative percent based on the income of each service for months in which there are separate charges for water and septic.119 Upon review, we find that the 13.6 percent factor used to determine the water-related meter reading expense is reasonable and no related revisions in the Proposed Decision have been made.
Defendants request for a revision120 in Conclusion of Law No. 1 is rejected as no clarification is needed there. Their request121 has been accepted for a revision in Ordering Paragraph No. 2 to make it clear that refunds can be made by credits to water bills. Also accepted is their request122 for a clarification that a balancing account is ordered only for the year 2012.
116 Complainants' Comments on Proposed Decision at 4-7.
117 Ibid. at 7-9. Also, Complainants' Reply to Defendants' Comments on Proposed Decision, at 2-4.
118 Ibid. at 9-11.
119 Defendants' Comments on Proposed Decision, at 1.
121 Ibid. at 2.
122 Id. The subheading and text of Section 5.6.2 of the Proposed Decision were changed accordingly.