Mon, March 30

Town ceases water talks

The town will not soon acquire the Camp Verde Water System, and town leaders are poised to make it official.

Facing them tonight is a vote to rescind authorization to staff to acquire the water system land by eminent domain.

"This is the official step…we are not buying the water company," said council member Eric Eberhard. "We are sending a letter to the Bullards to say that we're not interested."

The Bullard family owns the water plant, but the owners are not directly related to town finance director Dane Bullard.

"Basically we wrangled about the price, tried condemnation, and now we've figured it's not worth doing," Eberhard said. "The next step is to sit and wait. It's not like they have any other customers."

Officials ended negotiations in closed session recently after town evaluations estimated the plant to be worth considerably less than what the Bullards were asking. The town had been offering up to roughly $5 million for the water plant.

The town has been set to take over Camp Verde Water System by eminent domain since at least November of last year. Previous negotiations to purchase the company outright began in 1999. However, there was a difference of opinion on the value and price of the company.

Town Manager John Roberts estimated the value of the water company at about $3.5 to $4 million, in stark contrast to the $8 million price tag suggested by owner Jim Bullard. Roberts said the town arrived at the lower figure based on appraisal methodology provided by a large engineering firm hired by the town.

Roberts has confirmed that a financial commitment on behalf of the town would also be subject to voter approval. Although Camp Verde voters gave town officials the authority several years ago to obtain utilities, bond authority would still have to be voted upon if the town decided to continue attempts to acquire the plant in the future.

Another issue hampering the town's acquisition of the plant is a new arsenic standard affecting drinking water. More than a year ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new ruling began to impact small Arizona and Verde Valley water companies by lowering the acceptable levels of arsenic in drinking water.

The federal ruling changed the standard from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. According to the Water Utilities Association of Arizona, the new regulations impacted 28 percent of all water companies in Arizona. Statewide compliance costs were estimated to be at least $1 billion.

If the town were to acquire the water company at some point in the future, it would have until September 2006 to comply with the new standards.

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