After session, sewer debate still alive<br><i>Mayor again hints at takeover</i>

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

CAMP VERDE Council members and the board of directors for the Camp Verde Sanitary District (sewer) met Feb. 10 in a special session.

This is the second time in recent months that Mayor Mitch Dickinson has alluded to the idea but has not committed to any particular timeframe.

The town requested the Camp Verde Sanitary District’s board of directors meet with them for updates on several sewer-related matters including the process it takes to assume the district. Dickinson explained that he believes it may be necessary to consolidate the district at some point, along with other utilities, because of the town’s push for economic development and the lack of infrastructure in place.

“As a community, we’re behind the eight ball. As the community grows, we must give thought to public utilities,” Dickinson said. He suggested the town needs to begin exploring and looking at the process, but agreed that “it is not something done overnight.”

Sanitary District Chair Suzy Burnside questioned why the town would want to pursue assumption of the sewer system.

The Camp Verde Sanitary District is not part of the town's government structure. It is a taxing district made up of an elected board with a paid staff that runs day-to-day operations.

In order for the town to take over the district, it would require voter approval (it’s not a buy-out, but an assumption of all debts and responsibilities), according to Cory Vandemoer, the district's attorney. She helped explain to town officials the process and ramifications of assuming the district. The district must also ask voters if they want to dissolve the district. Assuming both favor the take-over, they can proceed, said Vandemoer. The current board would continue to advise the council acting as the new board until their terms expire because of the bonded indebtedness.

Jim Bullard, who was in the audience, suggested that the town should, in time, own all Camp Verde utilities, including the sewer district, the water company and the fire district. Now is not the time, however, he said, because the town can't afford it. Bullard owns the Camp Verde Water System, Inc. Bullard has had negotiations with a former council concerning acquisition of his water company. At the time, he was asking about $6 million.

The following is a brief overview of other issues discussed at the special Feb. 10 meeting:

• Sewer Expansion Project: This May, voters will be asked to re-approve a $600,000 bond, designated specifically to help defray the cost of the land needed for the new sewer plant.

“The expansion project cannot be done without ownership of the land, and it was agreed that it is imperative that the voters support and pass the upcoming bond,” the minutes state.

The district has been in the process of undertaking a sewer expansion project since about 1999, conceived as an enterprise zone as far back as 1990. According to Burnside, the district has overcome several obstacles in its push for expansion, and one-by-one has made tremendous progress, especially in the past few years.

“I know all are concerned with delays,” Burnside explained. “The delays have not been caused by us, but statutes and protest timeframes.”

When expansion is finished, it will include collector lines for the interstate business district, Reddell Acres, Fort River Caves and others and the new sewer plant.

According to Burnside, the expansion plans should be out of bid within four to six weeks. The bid can be awarded 30 to 60 days after the assessments are cleared. The construction will take six months and the overall project, including collector lines and the plant, will take 12 to 14 months from the date of start, probably completed in the summer of 2005.

• Community Development Block Grant funds: Could be pursued to help with hardship cases, people who may need relief for construction costs (disposing of existing septic tanks and running lines to the street for example).

• The Yavapai-Apache Nation: Is pursuing Water Infrastructure Financing Authority (WIFA) grant for $35,000 and Camp Verde may do the same in order to pursue a master plan study on future sewer needs. It appeared that all agreed a collective approach is best.

• An intergovernmental agreement: Has been approved by both the town and the district. The purpose of the IGA is for the town to lend the district funds to install collector lines while roads are still torn up at Seventh and Finnie Flat Road and Boyer Lane. The district will have one year to repay the debt (under $15,000).

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