Mon, July 22

Cottonwood council increases water-wastewater rates

Rudy Rodriguez

Rudy Rodriguez

COTTONWOOD - The Cottonwood City Council has adopted a resolution increasing its water and wastewater user rates to that would take effect on March 1.

At Tuesday's council meeting, only one member of the public rose to voice objections to the increase, even though two of the seven council members voted "no," and in the minority.

The 5 percent increase in water fees increases the base charge inside the city from $24.76 to $26. Outside the city, fees rise from $32.19 to $33.80.

Cottonwood Administrative Services Manager Rudy Rodriguez gave a lengthy explanation of how the city originally purchased the private water companies, made improvements, plugged leaks and interlinked the systems to eliminate failures and eliminated non-productive elements.

Holly Grigaitis was the only audience member to speak to the changes.

Even though water companies asked the city to acquire the services, as Rodriguez explained, "the citizens who use the water" were not asked, said Grigaitis a condition she insisted was "taxation without representation."

Grigaitis then diverted from water fees to city employee's salaries, revisiting the $115,000 salary recently offered the new police chief.

She alluded that the average citizen makes only about $20,000. "Who makes $95,000?" asked Grigaitis. "Nuclear scientists!"

She suggested that there are other places in the city budget to look.

Sherry Twamley, a regular critic of water rate increases outside the city limits, was also in the audience, but did not speak to the board.

Jesse Dowling responded that the only option is "don't do any of it and let citizens do it on their own, and that is not very workable."

Another council member, Tim Elinski insisted that, "I feel your pain too." But he reminded the speaker that, "This utility is no different from other utilities."

He said he works around the state and "in some places, when you turn the tap, no water comes out."

Ruben Jauregui and Randy Garrison are the council members to vote against the rate increase, in a roll call vote.

Garrison said he is bothered by the process used to establish rates. "We always start with our costs and add increases to that number. I have never been in agreement with that process."

"When we (the Garrison family) owned the water company, we would have to go before the Arizona Corporation Commission and base our rates on our costs and we would have to justify our costs before they would give us any kind of rate increase. We don't do that with the city; we just say, 'here's our costs we are going to add to them.'

"When the city took over our system (from Cottonwood Water Works), we hadn't had a rate increase in 14 years. The city in the last eight years has raised its rates over 400 percent. And with the rates proposed, we are going to raise them another 50 percent over the next six years."

"I don't have a problem with the rates going up; that is a given. I just don't like the way we establish our rates," said Garrison.