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Avimor In The Dark?

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The developers of the Avimor project are weighing their options after the Idaho Public Utilities Commission denied a proposal to bring power to the new development. Avimor and Idaho Power wanted to extend electric service to the planned community, with a twist.

Their idea: Avimor would advance $4.3 million to Idaho Power, in exchange for installing 3.4 miles of transmission line and building a substation. Idaho Power would then refund Avimor $6,277 per customer, if the 685 customers connected to the service within 10 years.

Gene Fadness, public information officer for the PUC, said commissioners felt uncomfortable with the unusually large amount of the refund, so large, in fact, that it posed a risk of raising utility rates for all of Idaho Power's customers.

"The higher per-customer cost you put into a base rate, the higher the chance you have to raise everyone's rate," Fadness said.

It's not uncommon for a utility to extend services to a new development, Fadness said, but usually, the new service is adjacent to an area with existing coverage. In the case of Avimor, located off Highway 55, north of Eagle, the nearest connection is more than three miles away.

"It's a huge difference," Fadness said.

Avimor and Idaho Power returned to the commission with an offer of 1,103 customers connecting at a cost of $3,900 per customer. This was also rejected, and the commission put forward a number of 4,300 customer connections at $1,000 per customer. "It's still three-times the average per customer cost," Fadness said.

The average cost per customer to install these new lines is roughly $350.

Avimor developers have until June 14 to ask the commission to reconsider its decision, and Scott Peyron, spokesperson for SunCor, Avimor's parent company, said options are still being weighed.

Among those options are asking for reconsideration or filing some sort of court action. "We've just received the draft order," Peyron said. "It's very fluid and new. We're drilling into the finding in the order to develop a course of action."

The commission's order also states that if the 4,300 customers are not connected to electrical service within 10 years, Avimor will not receive its full refund. Additionally, the commission shot down Avimor's proposal that interest accrue on the unrefunded amounts.

According to SunCor, the first phase of Avimor will include 684 homes, but the size of future phases of the development have yet to be decided.