Southwest Gas takeover almost complete |

Southwest Gas takeover almost complete

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Ryan McLaughlin, a combination crew leader with Southwest Gas, checks a meter on a Kingsbury Grade business on Wednesday afternoon.

Southwest Gas on Friday will finalize its buyout of Avista’s 18,600 natural gas properties at South Lake Tahoe for $15 million. The change initially announced last July will be reflected in the May bills.

Management at the Las Vegas-based utility company said it would absorb Avista’s current rates, which amount to 0.94829 cent per therm. The average monthly bill is $62.40. But rates go up in the winter and drop in the summer.

Southwest, which already has 4,300 Stateline customers, has filed for a rate increase with the California Public Utility Commission. If approved it would not be effective until January 2009.

Spokeswoman Cynthia Messina said the company viewed the purchase as a “growth opportunity” in its home state of Nevada.

“We look forward to serving our new customers in the South Lake Tahoe community and want to assure them that they will receive our continued commitment to providing safe and reliable natural gas service,” said Dennis Redmond, vice president of Southwest’s Northern California and Northern Nevada operations.

Avista chose to unload properties far away from its Pacific Northwest territory.

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“We want to continue to focus our strategy on our core business. The South Lake Tahoe properties are isolated from the rest of our system,” spokeswoman Catherine Markson said.

The Spokane, Wash.-based company’s six employees have left Avista, and a small team came in to handle the transition. Some went to work for Southwest Gas.

Avista’s field office on Dunlap will close. Southwest will move into a temporary location with a drop box at 1950 Lake Tahoe Blvd. After Aug. 1, the permanent office will be established with a box at 1740 D St. There also are pay stations at Raley’s at the “Y” and Mi Pueblo Meat Market – both off Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

Customer service calls will be fielded at (800) 832-2555, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at