by Paul LaVoie, Radio Central News

The voters of Bullhead City have spoken. In a hotly contested ballot proposition that is being decided by mail-in ballots, the YES on 415 crowd is celebrating with a narrow win of just 214 votes, but that result is preliminary.
At stake is the ownership, distribution and operation of the city’s water supply, currently under the management of EPCOR, Inc. Mounting a very strong campaign of their own, EPCOR in one sense brought the fight unto themselves after a number of rate increases over a four year period (totaling over 90-percent) forced the city to take action. For the city, step one was at the Arizona Corporation Commission through a number of contested hearings over EPCOR’s proposed rate consolidation with Phoenix-based water systems. Consolidation meant that Bullhead City water customers would be charged the same rates as their Maricopa County counterparts. But following EPCOR’s latest appeal which would greatly impact residents and businesses alike, city leaders and the seven member council decided enough is enough: let the voters decide.
Tuesday’s landmark vote – if it holds because of provisional ballots still waiting to be counted – simply means Bullhead City can enter into negotiations with EPCOR Water to buy the system outright. EPCOR purchased the water infrastructure in Bullhead City for around $32-million in 2012, but now says is worth over $130-million. EPCOR also argues the city had just as much right to control their own water supply when it passed up on the purchase that the Canadian-owned water utility ultimately made.
Meanwhile, the provisional ballots are those from registered voters in Bullhead City that were hand-delivered to the Mohave County Library’s Bullhead City branch, or to the county election offices in Kingman, by the close of polls on Tuesday, November 5. And because this was an all mail-in ballot special election, county election officials say the final tally won’t be known for five to seven working days – or likely by Tuesday, November 12.
Following what appears to be a narrow three percent win, a majority of Bullhead City voters and the YES ON 415 PAC are celebrating this battle. But what’s coming will surely be a legal war.