Fri, Jan. 24

Prescott council holds firm <br>on water committee decision

The Prescott City Council doesn’t want to “run the bus” when it comes to the operations of a countywide water board, but it is not backing down from its earlier request for approval of a number of aspects of the committee.

The City Council says it is committed to “continue to support” the work of the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee. But council members are also committed to their conditions of operation, which raised strong objections from other members of the water committee last week.

Prescott council members heard a report about the advisory committee from Councilman Robert Behnke, who represents Prescott on the countywide board.

Behnke read a letter he has drafted to the other water committee members, which outlines Prescott’s stand.

At the last advisory committee, Behnke faced numerous questions from other committee members about a resolution that the Prescott City Council approved. The resolution sets five conditions for Prescott’s involvement in the committee, including prior City Council approval of various aspects of the committee’s operations.

The approval would extend to such matters as: the scope of duties of the newly appointed Yavapai County advisory coordinator; the criteria for grants; the guidelines for payment of costs and expenses; the manner by which the advisory committee makes decisions; and the operation of the Yavapai County Technical Committee, a related board.

Other members of the committee had a host of problems with Prescott’s demands, pointing out that none of the other municipalities in the county asked for similar concessions.

Behnke’s letter maintains that the city’s conditions would involve a “one-time approval by the Prescott City Council.”

Behnke said he plans to present the procedure for that approval to the water advisory committee at its next meeting in September.

He defended the city’s right to ask for more information and control. “As I see it, over the next two to three years, we could be involved in committing some $1 (million) to $2 million worth of work, which should not be undertaken unless all the details of the project are clear,” he wrote in his letter to the committee.

Other council members appeared supportive of Behnke’s approach to the committee. “We should make it clear to Rob that we wish him well,” said Mayor Sam Steiger. “I think your understanding of the problem is very clear in that letter.”

Steiger added that even though the other municipalities have not asked for similar approval, they have the same right to do so as Prescott has.

“Any one of these other members have got the same option,” Steiger said. “They should be concerned about how this money is spent.”

Even so, Steiger maintained that the Prescott City Council is not asking to be “involved in every water advisory decision.”

“We’re not trying to run the bus,” he said.

The council also discussed the $50,000 contribution that the city still owes to the county-wide water effort. Other municipalities paid their share of the cost several months ago, but Prescott has been awaiting the council’s approval of the intergovernmental agreement for the committee and coordinator position.

Prescott’s overdue status was also an issue of contention at last week’s water advisory meeting. Committee members questioned whether the city would come up with last year’s $50,000 contribution, as well as the current year’s share, for a total amount of $100,000.

According to Behnke’s letter, the council never approved the 1999 contribution. “We checked our records and nowhere was the request for $50,000 brought to our City Council for approval,” the letter stated.

But both Behnke and Steiger said the money exists in the city’s budget. “The money is available. We can pay anytime,” Steiger said.

After the meeting, Behnke said he plans to take his ideas to the committee meeting in September. Soon after that, he said, the council likely will consider its “one-time” approval of the points in the resolution. Also at that time, he said, the council could vote on the $50,000 contribution.

Behnke added that he will propose that the city’s contribution will be for the 1999 year, with the 2000 contribution still to come.

“I’m proposing that we don’t skip a year (of contributing to the effort),” Behnke said.

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