Mon, Feb. 24

Editorial: 260 sewer expansion a wise gamble for Camp Verde

The $40 million sticker shock the Cottonwood City Council received Tuesday night for future sewer expansion should be front and center today when the Camp Verde Town Council takes a hard look at its own current and future sewer needs.

In Cottonwood, the costs for sewer improvements and expansion range between $41 million and $51 million.

Remember, Cottonwood has 16.65 square miles in its corporate boundaries. Camp Verde has 42 square miles.

Currently, expansion of Camp Verde’s sewer service is focused on the State Route 260 corridor to coincide with the four-lane construction project on the highway. The project, estimated to cost some $10 million and likely financed through creation of a community facilities district, is not so much about meeting current needs as it is in providing for the future.

The 260 corridor is viewed as an economic lifeline for Camp Verde. Providing sewer service is viewed as a way to jump start commercial and industrial development there.

That vision no doubt rankles the feathers of some in Camp Verde who were included in the original boundaries of the former Camp Verde Sanitary District. It’s estimated there are some 100 households for which sewer service was never provided by the Sanitary District. They still do not receive service from the town today, but continue to pay a secondary property tax toward absolving the former district’s still outstanding debts.

On the surface, that does not seem fair. But it bears emphasis that many of those homes, especially those along Salt Mine Road, are in an agriculture residential zone classification with properties that range from 5 to 10 acres. It’s a big expense for an area with such low density. The financial justification for providing service there is questionable.

It also bears emphasis that the town government did not create the boundaries of the former Sanitary District, but, rather, inherited them four years ago when voters in a dual election gave the green light for the town to take over sewer service.

Whether the priority is first taking care of those not being served or expanding on the gamble of economic opportunity, Camp Verde again needs to pay close attention to the fiscal realities of expansion as is evidenced in Cottonwood right now.

It was emphasized that the $41 million to $51 million staring Cottonwood in the face right now is the cost for improvements and expansion in “today’s dollars.” A year from now, it’s going to be higher. If you wait 10 years, the figure could balloon to $100 million.

Remember, Cottonwood’s expansion territory is only a fraction of that which exists in Camp Verde, a town with nearly three times the land mass as Cottonwood’s corporate boundaries but whose sales tax revenue is only a quarter of that generated in Cottonwood.

Camp Verde may not be going down the most popular road with some folks by expanding sewer service along State Route 260, but if the town’s crystal ball is accurate about the economic clout this expansion will bring, the map only points in one direction.

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