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Raising water rate on table

Cottonwood Journal Extra of Cottonwood, Arizona

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The city of Cottonwood is moving forward with a possible increase in water rates for 2016.

Last week, the council initiated the process to look at raising the rates, although no increase has been voted on.

It's the first step in a process, said City Clerk Marianne Jimenez.

"There will need to be a notice of intent to increase rates and then there will have to be a public hearing," Jimenez said. "It's not being voted on yet."

The proposed increase is part of a five-year plan to incrementally raise rates for both water and sewer service.

The city also raised rates earlier in 2015.

"The proposed increases to the city's utility rates will help ensure that ongoing operations and maintenance costs are adequately provided for," according to a report from Cottonwood Administrative Services General Manager Rudy Rodriguez.

Currently customers inside the city pay a base rate of $24.76 a month on a basic residential connection.

Under the proposed plan, that would increase to $26.

Customers connected to the city's water system who live outside of city limits pay a higher rate.

Base charges for those customer would increase from $32.19 to $33.80.

Customers aren't charged for the first 1,000 gallons used.

Current basic wastewater rates see customers paying $29.15 a month, which would be raised to $32.

The proposed fees would bring connection fees in line for residents both inside and outside the city at $44.25.

Rodriguez said that the difference in rates for customers outside the city were due to issues including the greater distance to provide water and the need to repair the systems in poor condition outside the city.

Most of the water inside the city is gravity fed, according to Rodriguez, more booster pumps are needed for areas like the Verde Villages which increases the city's electrical cost.

The possible rate increase is to help with maintenance costs and to help the city pay its debt obligations on its municipal water system, which has grown over the past decade as the city has obtained and incorporated private water systems.

Those private companies approached the city to sell their systems, according to the city's administrative services department.

At the time, new federal regulations regarding acceptable arsenic levels in drinking water were established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Arsenic, while found to be harmful to humans, is found naturally in higher quantities in the Southwest than in other parts of the county.

Private companies weren't sure they could handle the cost of mitigating arsenic to meet the new federal standard.

The city obtained three systems with a $13.6 million bond, including the Clemenceau system and one that serves the Verde Santa Fe neighborhood.

In 2006, a $24 million bond enabled the city to obtain Cottonwood Water Works.

More were obtained in 2007 and 2008 with a little over $1.7 million in cash the city already had in reserve.

In total the city obtained seven private water systems.

The $13.6 million bond is set to be paid off in 2029.

The $24 million bond is set to be paid off in 2035.

Rates are reviewed each year to determine how much the city feels it needs to charge.

Copyright 2015 Cottonwood Journal Extra, Cottonwood, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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