Sewer rates in Fort Mohave could be cut in half by 2018

   BULLHEAD CITY—It’s going to take a couple of years, but EPCOR Water will move forward with a new rate case before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) by the end of the month with the hopes that wastewater customers in Ft. Mohave will have their bills cut nearly in half by 2018.

“We have very high rates,” said Shawn Bradford, EPCOR Vice President of Corporate Services, during a special town hall meeting Monday night in Bullhead City. “We’re going to try to change that.”

Monday’s announcement is an about-face for EPCOR which won ACC approval last year for a steep, but staggered increase in residential sewer rates, which were implemented to offset multi-million dollars in capital improvements in Mohave County. Bradford blamed the ‘small rate base’ for the staggering increase, which will take monthly sewer bills to $78.53 in Sept. 2017. The capital improvements were completed shortly after EPCOR acquired the Mohave system from Arizona-American Water Company in 2012. The costs of those improvements were spread over the 1,500 wastewater customers they serve in Mohave County.

EPCOR is now looking to spread all of its costs over its entire system in Arizona—more than 60,000 customers. EPCOR operates wastewater systems in five different districts—most of which are located in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Bradford said, the impending rate case will include a proposal to consolidate the five districts into one and thus enlarging the rate base for all of the company’s costs. The end result would likely mean a substantial savings for customers along the Colorado River.

Bradford projected the consolidation, if approved by the ACC, could lower sewer rates in Fort Mohave to $38-$43 per month. It would be much closer to the monthly rate that residents in Bullhead City pay as part of the city’s wastewater system, which has been $31 for many years. The new rates would be the same for all 60,000 EPCOR customers in all districts.

While the monthly rate would be lowered in Mohave County, it would go up in two of the five districts, but Bradford said there are benefits even for those that will see an increase in their rates. EPCOR predicts consolidation would lower rates in the Mohave district, the Anthem district north of Phoenix and the Agua Fria district near Buckeye. Monthly rates would likely increase in the Sun City and Sun City West districts. Bradford expects the proposal to gain widespread support in the areas that will see a decrease in rates, but it’s already being criticized in Sun City, where rates would likely increase.

While the consolidation proposal has been widely panned in the Sun City area, Bradford said, residents in those areas will benefit, too. Because the infrastructure in those areas is very old, they are slated for a major overhaul. Some wastewater lines in Sun City were installed when Del Webb first developed the retirement community in the late 1950s and 60s. In Sun City West, they were installed in the early 1970s. Without consolidation, Bradford said, Sun City residents may see rates even higher than those in Fort Mohave.

“No matter how good you are, those pipes are not going to last another 50 years,” Bradford said of the aging system in Sun City.

EPCOR plans to file its consolidation plan and rate case by Apr. 29. Bradford explained that hearings on the matter could be held in early 2017 with a final decision by the ACC in 2018. EPCOR expects some of those hearing to be held in the Tri-State area.

BHC mother faces child abuse charges after leaving children in car while she was in a bar

BULLHEAD CITY— Her car was left running, it overheated and the air conditioning was now blowing hot hair. Not exactly the kind of conditions you would expect someone to leave their children in, but that’s exactly what police found Tuesday night outside a bar in the Riviera neighborhood.

A Bullhead City mother, who was found inside the bar, was arrested and charged with endangerment and child abuse. Investigators say, Jessie Anna Colwell, 31, had been inside for approximately 30 minutes and smelled of alcohol.

Her two children, ages 5-years old and 18-months, were inside her unlocked vehicle with the engine running, according to police department spokesperson Emily Fromelt. A concerned citizen had seen the children in the car and called police at around 7 p.m. Fromelt said that officers estimated the outside temperature at about 91 degrees and the temperature inside the car was even higher. The children were reportedly sweating when they were found by the officers.

Colwell was booked into the Mohave County Jail in Kingman and the two children were turned over to the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

Topock wildfire 0% contained, has jumped river into California

     NEEDLES / TOPOCK — The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has just issued mandatory evacuation notices to all residents and visitors in and around Park Moabi. The call comes less than 20 minutes after a 25-acre wildfire burning in the Havasu Wildlife Refuge jumped the Colorado River into California.

Mohave Valley Fire Marshall Don Gibson says emergency crews were first notified of the fire shortly after daybreak. His department has also evacuated several campgrounds around the Topock marsh.

As of 8:20 a.m., the fire was zero percent contained. It is burning just south of where the Willow Fire scorched more than 6,000 acres last year. Most roads in and around the fire have been closed to all traffic.

Now that the fire has entered California, emergency crews from the San Bernardino County Fire Department are battling to contain it.

San Bernardino County emergency responders have set up an evacuation center at 1111 Bailey Ave. in Needles, which is the county complex just north of the Colorado River Medical Center.

BHC burglar identified, still at-large

     BULLHEAD CITY– Tri-State area authorities are on a manhunt for a burglary suspect that is believed to be responsible for a rash of break-ins throughout Bullhead City, Fort Mohave and Mohave Valley.

Bullhead City police identified their prime suspect as Robert Henry Osterhout, 24. He’s wanted for questioning in connection with a slew of residential burglaries– the last of which occurred last Thursday at a residence in the 1600 block of Highway 95 in Bullhead City. In that burgalry, Osterhout is accused of smashing the sliding glass door, grabbing a purse and then running away.

Police have responded to numerous reports of a person/s breaking and entering residences when victims were home and stealing their purses/wallets. In one of these incidents, Osterhout was captured on surveillance footage. The vehicle Osterhout is driving is a 2005, dark blue Hyundai 2DR coupe, AZ license plate: BME6157.

Osterhout is believed to be with the vehicle owner, Keri Marie Burnside, 24. She is also wanted for questioning in these recent burglaries.

If anyone has any information of their whereabouts, please contact the Bullhead City Police Department at (928) 763-1999.

SUV falls from 5th floor of parking garage

    LAUGHLIN– One person is in critical condition after an SUV drove off the parking garage behind the Terrible Herbst convenience store on Casino Drive. As in with most major serious injury traffic accidents, detectives with the Las Vegas Metro Fatal Traffic Division are investigating the incident.

Emergency crews in Laughlin were dispatched to the accident scene shortly before 8:30 a.m. The Ford Expedition had careered through a concrete barrier from the fifth floor of the parking garage. The vehicle landed on its roof, requiring EMTs with the Clark County Fire Department to extricate the reportedly 19-year old driver, who was then transported to the hospital in Bullhead City and has since been airlifted to UMC in Las Vegas. His current condition is unknown.

Paramedics also located a dog and two cats inside the destroyed vehicle. The canine perished at the scene.

BHCPD on the lookout for ‘road rage’ suspect

BULLHEAD CITY– Police are still looking for the owner of the car that fled the scene of a road rage accident Monday afternoon on the Bullhead Parkway. One person was sent to the hospital for treatment after her vehicle was purposely struck by another vehicle while both were southbound.

The injured driver told police that the road rage actually started while the two cars were crossing the Laughlin Bridge into Arizona and continued across Highway 95 and onto the parkway.

After deliberately striking the driver’s side and sending the car over an embankment, the suspect vehicle fled the area at a high rate of speed and has not been located.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male adult, medium build with black hair and mustache. He was wearing a white T-shirt and black and white ball cap.

The suspect’s vehicle is described as a charcoal gray mid-size sedan. It has California plates with a red registration tab, San Francisco 49ers license plate frame, dent in the driver’s door and possible tinted windows. It should have front end damage around the license plate and left front bumper.

If anyone has any information on this aggravated assault accident, please contact the Bullhead City Police Department at (928) 763-9200.

BHCPD investigating road rage incident

     BULLHEAD CITY—It was no accident. Investigators say a vehicle that rolled off the Bullhead Parkway Monday afternoon was deliberately pushed off the pavement in a fit of road rage and now police are looking for the man responsible.

The driver of the vehicle was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Her passenger also complained of minor injuries but was treated at the scene by Bullhead City Fire Department paramedics. Police say both survived the accident because they were wearing their seat belts, which is required by Arizona State Law.

Their vehicle rolled down an embankment, off the parkway, about a half-mile from the entrance to the Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport. Officers at the scene said, the vehicle rolled twice on its way down the embankment before landing on its wheels. Police and emergency medical personnel were dispatched to the scene at around 4:30 p.m.

An eyewitness told police that he was following the vehicle as it traveled south on the Parkway at approximately 60 miles an hour. The suspect vehicle reportedly pulled around both vehicles and into the dirt median at what the eyewitness estimated was approximately 80 miles an hour. According to police at the scene, that vehicle deliberately struck the rear-driver’s side area of the lead vehicle, causing the driver to lose control and spin off the pavement. The suspect vehicle sped away from the scene, continuing to travel south.

Before the victim was sent to the hospital, she and her passenger told investigators that the incident started while the two drivers were stopped at Highway 95 and the Laughlin Bridge. The driver of the suspect vehicle had made numerous body gestures toward them while they were both stopped at the intersection—apparently upset at something that had transpired between the two while driving across the bridge. The road rage continued as the vehicles crossed the highway and headed south on the Parkway.

Police are investigating the incident as an aggravated assault case. They are searching for the driver of the suspect vehicle.

6 file for Laughlin Town Board, deadline is Friday

    LAUGHLIN– With the filing deadline this Friday, six people have officially filed paperwork to run for the Laughlin Town Advisory Board this fall. This is the first year, voters in Laughlin will get the final say on who serves as the official liaison between the Laughlin Township and the Clark County Commission.

All five seats on the town board will be up for election. The only incumbent, so far, to file for a new term on the town board is Kathy Ochs. She and the other four members of the current town board were appointed to their positions by the Clark County Commission in 2014.

In 2015, the Nevada Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval approved Senate Bill 115, which required all town advisory board positions for townships located more than 25 miles from an incorporated city of more than 500,000 people. That essentially required elected town board members in all areas of rural Clark County– those located outside the Las Vegas Valley.

In addition to Ochs, those seeking a seat on the Laughlin Town Advisory Board include: Laughlin Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), President Jim Maniaci, real estate agent Gina Mackey, David Brunelle, Martin Knauss and Noreen McBride.

As of Tuesday, Laughlin is the only unincorporated township in Clark County with more candidates that available seats for the upcoming election. In fact, there are more people running in Laughlin than any of the other rural town boards combined. For example, only one person has come forward to run for a seat on the Searchlight Town Advisory Board.
If other candidates do not come forward in the other town advisory boards, those that filed will automatically be elected and the Clark County Commission will appoint individuals to fill the remaining seats.

Those interested in running for a seat on the Laughlin Town Advisory Board have until Friday to file their paperwork at the Clark County Registrar of Voters office in Las Vegas. There are no fees to file and the position is open to any registered voter that has lived in Laughlin at least 30 days prior to the filing deadline.

Laughlin man pleads guilty to coercion, faces up to six years in prison

LAS VEGAS– A Laughlin man accused of sexually assaulting two children has plead guilty to coercion and child abuse charges as part of a plea agreement with the Clark County District Attorney’s Office. Matthew R. Heck, 25, faces up to six years in a Nevada state prison for his conviction.

Prosecutors originally charged Heck with five counts of sexual assault against a child under the age of 14 in connection with an incident that took place in Dec. 2014 in Laughlin. The DA’s office has confirmed there were two minors involved in the case. The original charges could have resulted in a prison term of 35-years to life.

Heck remains incarcerated at the Clark County Detention Center, where he has been held since his release from an Arizona state prison in January. Heck had been serving a two-year sentence for a fraud conviction in Mohave County Superior Court in connection with a case out of Bullhead City.

He will be sentenced in Clark County District Court on Jun. 7. Judge Susan Johnson will have some latitude when she hands down her sentence. Heck could receive as little as two years in prison, but a spokesman for the DA’s office indicated they will be pursuing the maximum sentence in this case.

BHC man arrested on sexual assault charges after 14yr old is reported missing

     BULLHEAD CITY– A Bullhead City man knew his girlfriend was underage, but that apparently didn’t stop him from having sex with her. Bullhead City police also believe the two had been ‘sexting’ each other.

Tyler Aaron Ballard, 20, was arrested Thursday on one count each of sexual assault and sexual conduct with a minor. The arrest culminated a day-long investigation that started out as a missing or possible runaway juvenile.

Thursday morning local school administrators reported a 14-year old student as missing. She had been on a school bus, didn’t make it to school. According to police department spokesperson, Emily Fromelt, other students reported seeing her at a nearby gas station. Police checked the surveillance video and determined that the missing teenager got into a vehicle with a man.

Police later located the same vehicle with the 14-year-old girl and Ballard inside. Police learned that Ballard and the girl had arranged to meet that morning. They had reportedly met recently. She reportedly began sending Ballard naked photographs of herself via text message. Police detectives learned that during the day, Thursday, the two reportedly had sexual intercourse and Ballard knew she was under 18 years old.

Fromelt said, Ballard may face additional charges once police conduct a forensic examination of the couple’s cell phones.

Ballard was booked into the Mohave County Jail in Kingman.

The case is still under investigation, according to Fromelt, as there may be additional victims.