Cottonwood looks at rate increase for water, wastewater

Council directs staff to reevaluate numbers for wastewater increase

COTTONWOOD – Cottonwood City Council looked at potentially raising utility rates for water and wastewater Tuesday during a work session.

Council directed staff to reexamine the numbers for the wastewater increase. Staff had initially proposed a $13.45 per month increase.

“I realize that’s a steep jump,” said Deputy City Manager Rudy Rodriguez in an interview. “We are going to go back and review the numbers.”

Rodriguez said staff may stagger out the rate so the increase doesn’t come at residents all at once.

According to staff documents, the justification for raising rates is to maintain the city’s reserves. The last increase on water and wastewater utilities was in March 2016.

City staff has been meeting with a rate committee to review the city’s operations, capital and financial needs, according to staff documents.

“On the water side, we have been fortunate that the initial investments early on to upgrade the systems, are now helping stabilize rates throughout the entire system,” staff documents state. “Though we still have issues arise, our reserves have been sufficient to absorb many of the costly repairs and upgrades.”

But the wastewater system is in a more bleak condition, according to staff.

“Over the years, rates have not increased sufficiently to allow reserves to be set aside,” documents state.

According to staff, the Mingus Avenue facility needs major repairs and upgrades to avoid future “catastrophic failure.”

Wastewater rates are also a static rate, according to Rodriguez. The city has used this rate structure since the early 1980s.

“It’s a flat rate and that doesn’t play well for money when we need it,” he said.

Utilities for those living outside city limits are charged at a higher rate. According to staff documents, this is because of greater distances for service lines. Another factor is the difference in terrain and meters being located in small overgrown backyard easements.

Council will discuss water/wastewater utility increases again during a work session on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Cottonwood City Council holds regular meetings every first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at their Chambers Building, located 826 N. Main St. For agendas and minutes, visit http://cottonwoodaz.gov/129/Agendas-Minutes. A livestream of the meetings is also available on the Verde Valley TV YouTube channel.

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