An update on water delivery problems in a west Bend neighborhood that has triggered state investigations.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission is accelerating the timeline for a decision on penalties against Sun Country Water and a possible transfer of operational authority to a regent. It’s partly due to a letter from the company’s former office manager.
A leaking fire hydrant in the Saddleback neighborhood near Shevlin Park means several homes still aren’t receiving water on a consistent or reliable basis.
“First off, some actions have been taken and that’s more than welcome to see,” said Joe McMahon, a Sun Country Water customer. “There’s been some repair attempts here and we have some movement by the PUC taking some actions, too.”
An administrative law judge says the company has until July 24 to explain or rebut facts presented in the case.
The acceleration of a decision date from July 28 to July 24 is partially the result of an email from Victoria Coffman, the former office manager of the water company. Coffman said she quit because:
- “The owner refuses to ensure his customers are properly cared for.
- “He won’t fix the well and now there is a fire hydrant that he won’t fix either.
- “He laughs about it and makes jokes all day for years about the Silverado well,” which has been out of commission for two years.
“That is pretty fast. This is essentially a court proceeding,” said Nolan Moser, Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Oregon Public Utility Commission. “In this case, the commissioners are acting as judges and will be issuing a written decision.”
PUC is considering penalties of about $9,000 against Sun Country Water for failing to submit a rate case on a previously agreed upon schedule. The penalties might be suspended if another company takes control and fixes the water system.
“If Sun Country fixes it, great. If PUC feels they need to step in and resolve it some other way, so be it,” McMahon said.
The Sun Country Water company has until noon on July 24 to file a response with PUC. If the company fails to respond, PUC may appoint a regent to operate and repair the system.