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11/17/2011 6:00:00 AM
Council passes wastewater rate hike, increase takes effect Jan. 1
Miner Illustration
Miner Illustration

Ahron Sherman
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Despite concerns throughout the community about wastewater rate increases, only one person spoke up during the public hearing regarding these fees at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

When the city's wastewater treatment plants fell out of compliance with state and federal regulations earlier this decade, the city needed to decide what it was going to do to fix the problems. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality held the possibility of imposing $25,000-a-day fines and a moratorium on building permits over the city's head, which would've crippled an already ailing construction industry, if the city didn't fix the problems associated with the plants nearing maximum capacity and containing excessive levels of nitrates.

Finance Director Coral Loyd said that during the planning phase in 2006 the city examined alternatives such as building brand new plants and pumping effluents. It was ultimately decided that the most feasible option for the city was to rebuild the existing structures at their current sites.

To pay for the plants, the city ultimately took out Water Infrastructure Finance Authority loans to the tune of about $55 million combined. The final cost was to be split between monthly users and initial one-time connection fees.

However, the decline in construction, legislative changes to the ways impact fees are collected and the fact that too few water customers are actually connected to the sewer system has created challenges to paying off the debt without placing the majority of the burden on customers.

There are approximately 18,000 water customers, but only half of them are connected to the city's wastewater system. If those customers were connected, the wastewater rates could be reduced by half. There have been 1,400 new connects since 2005, however.

Also, the projected annual repayment on the loans has increased substantially since 2008, which is the driving force behind the rate increases, explained Loyd.

In 2008, the city's loan payment was $518,129, but in 2012 the payment will be $4,372,408. The impact of this on the 9,000 wastewater customers is huge, Loyd said.

The upcoming $10 average increase combined with another likely increase of $12 in 2013 will inflate a typical customer's wastewater bill to $62 a month. Before this process of upgrading the treatment plants started, customers were paying about $20 a month for wastewater. This is a huge difference, Loyd said.

Council member Carole Young said the wastewater plant has nothing to do with the general fund. It comes from an enterprise fund, which the city is not allowed to make a profit on, she said.

Loyd added that although it cannot be used to make a profit, the city does need to stay in the black with the fund.

Even though these rates affect customers the most, Young wanted to make it clear that considering the situation, these are the cheapest rates possible. If the city were to sell its facilities to a private company, which would be allowed to make a profit, the rates would be much higher, Young said.

Young said it bothers her that the city had impact fees to help pay for the plants, but now that they're going by the wayside, nearly all the burden is on the public.

"We're constantly looking for better ways to go about this without raising rates," Mayor John Salem said, pointing to the fact that tangible alternatives have not yet been found.

Council member Janet Watson said the only way the city and its customers will see a change for the better is if the user base is expanded.

To help with that, Council recently updated the Municipal Utilities Regulations to say that all new subdivisions must connect to the city's sewer system.

Local resident Michael Carter spoke during the public hearing and said that this increase is going to once again hit people who have already been hit hard.

Hoping for growth does not work, he said, adding that it just isn't there in this economy.

Young reiterated her earlier statements and added that small businesses will be hit hard as well, but the only alternative is to sell the facilities to a private company.

Council member Richard Anderson said the city must continue to look to cut expenses and reduce its energy and water consumption as well.

With that, the ordinance to raise monthly wastewater fees, monthly fixed charges and water connection fees as well as repeal water impact fees passed.

Without any discussion, general government impact fees were repealed as well.

The changes go into effect Jan. 1.

Mission Bank
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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011
Article comment by: Show Up at Meetings

Why is it, no one shows up at meetings? Does anyone watch the videos or TV? I am floored that Anderson and Young voted against this item because they wanted more of an evaluation on expenses and contractor subsidies?. How do they expect the plant will be paid for? Only half the residents on sewer? Past councils did not do their jobs to prevent this drastic increase. What did you expect this council to do?

Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011
Article comment by: V Stokes

@ Patty Flapjacks
So you pay $600 a year for a vacant house? Why not just turn off the service?
Be cheaper than paying for services that aren't being used, wouldn't it?

Posted: Sunday, November 20, 2011
Article comment by: Patty Flapjacks

I have a vacant house, with the water connected but I turn it off at the meter so there is zero usage. My bills, just to have the utility connected with zero usage has been $51.62/month. This really makes me sympathize with so many struggling residents in our community. I don't know how the working poor can afford this basic, fundamental utility. What the hell is wrong with our city council? Could they be anymore out of touch with their constituents? This is no Paradise Valley or Scottsdale. Half of the residents in this city can not afford WATER. What is even more despicable is that these departments turn a profit. Way to go Council! Make profit for your the city while ensuring the elderly, unemployed, working poor, and families can not afford water.

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011
Article comment by: Just wondering

It doesnt do any good to speak up, the county and city does what ever they want to. they dont live with in thier means, we are exspected to.., the people have to keep picking up the tab for them.,, up and beyond what is needed, maybe they need to downsize and go through their needs and wants list and do away with something. we have been hit hard with the econony, everyone needs to do thier part of helping to repair it. all I can say if people didnt work for the city and state , where would those people be right now,??? who do they think is paying them?

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011
Article comment by: Wasting Money

So how much money did we waste having a study done to tell the city how much to charge to pay for the new plants and now we already need to raise rates before the plants are completed.

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: Close the Golf Course DOWN NOW!

We can't afford to keep subsidizing that golf course and the waste in water consumption is horrific! The water and sewer rates in this city are ridiculous NOW, but as of Jan 1 they will be so high some us will be moving out of the city to a county area. We might as well walk away from the homes we own here, we are upside down in equity anyway! We 9,000 owners can NOT afford any more! Can someone please find out how much WE are paying for the water for this course alone?? Are THEY paying these kinds of fees, or are WE 9,000 paying them for them????

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: pot to pee in to the potless

Well, we have Our previous Mayor and Councils to blame. The problems started to rise about 15 to twenty years ago and they kept saying change was unnecessary. They were convinced that ADEQ would never shut down a City. Well It finally came to a head about 2 weeks after Mayor Salem took office. Either face 25000.00 dollars a day fine or enter into an agreement to fix the problem. Now it takes 55 million to fix. Just fix. Like our roads ignoring them is going to create another huge money pit. At some point chip and seal will not be an option. It won't be enough and we will be either driving on crumbling roads or dirt, or facing the cost of complete rebuilding of the roads.

Aside from our waste water treatment plants being out of compliance to you really understand what that means? It means that the water leaving the treatment facility is either high in Nitrites or ammonia. If the water is high in ammonia it cause the plants to grow too fast and die and then the ammonia and nitrates will become nitrites and trickle into ground water. Nitrites are bad, they cause heart, liver, lung and kidney damage. No amount of ground or rocks can filter this out of your drinking water. It takes special equipment to do this. Now septic tanks with leach fields are fine to a point. And the point is septic tanks don't treat the water that is released into the leach field and the untreated waste water trickles down into the ground. Not a pleasant thought right? In this day and age no one wants untreated sewage ending up in the water supply. Before you say well that's nature, remember we humans carry diseases that spread easily by contamination of water with waste. Hepatitus a, b, c, and the new d. HIV and AIDS to name just a few. I don't want to have contaminated ground water, do you? I also don't want to have the state tell our City no new homes can be built. So when all of this started and the 55 million in loans were set the City were aware that sewer rates were going to increase each year to maintain the WIFA loan at 2% interest. Sure it would be nice if we had enough growth to help offset the increase but no one is relocating and I doubt it was the impact fees that shut that particular engine down. I doubt if we get a real boom going after the impact fees disappear either.

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: greg tolentino

why can't they base the rate increase on you income and not a flat 10 dollars I mean you make more you pay more

Its a monopoly anyways you have to have sewer and there is only one company that serves the city? illegal maybe but most are to scared to challenge this what a bunch of crooks

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: Kingman Resident

I thought about going to the meeting...yet I knew I was just wasting my time!! The city and council had already made up their mind about the increase. As I said before my last electric (home is total electric) was lower than my water bill for one. This city need to look at issues regarding hooking up more homes to the sewer system to create more revenue, since less than half of the community is on sewer. About ten years ago...the city had created an improvement district for sewer, sidewalks and paving of streets. Our block wasn't included in this district, but we asked to be. Many of us are still paying for this district at the tune of $1,200.00 a year (for 15 years). Now you still don't have enough and keep on increasing the fees. Where do you think the people are going to get the money with the way the economy is?? It would be interesting to know how many people have discontinued their service?

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: Bart Simpson

What!!? This is outrageous!! I won’t stand for it!! It's unconscionable!! Oh wait... I'm not on city wastewater. Never mind...

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: Sure We can afford this

Yea pass this on to the residents. We're all doing great. Wheelbarrows of ready cash just sitting around for the "boards" shortcomings.

Well...Im going to feel this hit very hard. Its the 17th of the month and I have 7.52 in my bank account left after the monthly expenses.

Like every month Im hoping I spent my Grocery Budget well enough to have at least ONE decent meal per day. I might make it again this month. Thats a rarety. Most months I have nothing to eat a couple days before SSD comes.

Im very thankful I have a great friend that offers to feed me whenever I visit. Im grateful they have extra pension income afford to help me a couple times a month.

Alot of people say...Oh you just didnt plan when you worked. Thats not always true. I worked for companies that found ways to cheat their employees out of pensions. Most by selling out and just disappearing. Trust me. If your employer wants to steal your pension. They CAN and will. Leaving you with no recourse.

Its rather easy for them. Simply file bankruptcy and thats it. Your pension fund goes into the "discharge" creditor bucket.

Back to the point. Thanks Board...Ill think about you while Im sitting hungry or imposing on my friend to cover your latest grab into what little I live on.

If anyone votes for any Incumbant your an idiot. These people have proven over and over. You are only here to be pillaged an robbed.

The only way to have any power over this is to get rid of them. ALL OF THEM.

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: justanobody sr

$62 per month?
even in over taxed calif, the rates aren't that much!
this city has the worst management of any city in the world, why so much to repair/rebuild the treatment plant?
In researching the cost to build a new facility, costs are no where near that much, seems the city takes care of their buddies? maybe a little extra $$ for all involved?
this is a joke!!! this city is a joke!

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: ernest matthews

I guess it's time to build an out house.

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: Down The Drain

I am stunned that no one else came to the Kingman City Council meeting Tuesday to speak up against increasing the sewer/water rates! I am one of the many who didn't go and speak up, only because I thought I was not a good enough speaker to get my point across .Where were all those people who just love to talk who usually just can't hold back an opinion? Now, we will be all that much closer to not being able to pay our monthly bills.

I do have some incidental questions though. It was reported: 1) ". . . and the fact that too few water customers are actually connected to the sewer system has created challenges to paying off the debt without placing the majority of the burden on customers.", and 2) "Also, the projected annual repayment on the loans has increased substantially since 2008, which is the driving force behind the rate increases, explained Loyd". "In 2008, the city's loan payment was $518,129, but in 2012 the payment will be $4,372,408. The impact of this on the 9,000 wastewater customers is huge, Loyd said."

Excuse me, but aren't the number of users connected to the sewer system and projected annual repayment amounts, standard factors taken into account BEFORE a decision to consumate a loan is made? Either the "responsible" decision maker in this case is not being "responsible" and thereby should not hold their position, or there is more to the story that is not being said here.

In any case, are there City funds in any other categories that can be applied to this endeavor, like contingency funds, ETC., and/or increase golf course user fees since the golf course generates a lot of affluent, to ease the burden on the people that pay the City officials' salaries? Even IF it is too late to change things, I would like to have answers to these questions.

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: Donna Shadow **********************

Good grief! What part of "Recession" don't they understand? WE DON'T HAVE ANYMORE MONEY!!!

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