City sells Golden Valley wells

KINGMAN - Council members deliberated over several water issues Monday night in search of situations best fitting Kingman and its prime commodity.

It took the city staff's recommendation and approved the sale of four well sites in the Golden Valley area to developer Rhodes Homes, and after another thorough discussion, it sided with one Council member and several citizens who thought the Council should take its time on whether or not to expand by 273 percent the water service boundaries.

Four wells and Rhodes

The city of Kingman currently owns approximately 40 wells in the Golden Valley area where Jim Rhodes is building a master-planned community. The city has had many discussions with Rhodes, City Manager Paul Beecher said, and while "nothing has ever really gone anywhere," Rhodes has recently expressed interest in four one-acre well sites that sit where he wants to build a golf course, Beecher said.

After a miner bickering session between Councilman Dave French and Residents Against Irresponsible Development member Gwen Gilman over what the legal jargon really means for the future of the sites, City Attorney Carl Cooper cleared the air by stating that although the land given to the city must be used as well sites only, once it is sold, it is up to surrounding property owners to take action if the land isn't used as it was originally intended. The four wells in question are landlocked by Rhodes' property, Beecher said, and because its unlikely that Rhodes will object to himself if he ends up deciding he wants to use the property for a golf course instead of wells, the fact that they were intended for well sites is essentially irrelevant.

The city doesn't have much right-of-way to the land anyway, several officials said, because there was no accessing the sites without going through Rhodes' property. Therefore, if they were to be used to pump water, it would be literally impossible to transport the water out.

Harley Pettit, a member of RAID, said during one of his three trips to the lectern that selling the well sites has the potential to reduce the city taxpayers' water supply. He said developers know when they build out in the county like Rhodes has done that its their own responsibility to provide water. The land is always cheaper because there is no water, then something like this happens, and the benefit to the city, mainly a lump of extra cash, is only temporary.

Pettit proposed putting this issue on the ballot for voters to decide. "It's such a big issue, and it's such a big outcome at the other end," he said.

The idea was thrown around to fence off the sites, but French called to question the motion to approve the sale of the four sites and it passed 6-1, with Councilmember Tom Carter dissenting. Two other well sites may be of interest to Rhodes in the future, several city officials said.

Boundary expansion

The body voted unanimously to postpone the water boundary expansion as proposed, from 66 to 246 square miles, and pass the request first to the Municipal Utilities Commission, which overseas and reviews all individual requests for water service to developments inside and outside city limits.

In the last year-and-a-half to two years, one city official said, the Council has approved a handful of developments outside city limits. Expanding the boundaries "would allow the Council more control over any new water systems that are developed between the new service boundary," Special Projects Director Rob Owen said.

RAID member Mike Bihuniak said it makes sense to wait for the water study that is supposed to be completed in 11 months, have the MUC look at the proposal and not rush into this. "I think we're pushing this really hard and it doesn't need to be," he said.

Councilmember Janet Watson said it makes sense that if the MUC looked at each development proposal, then it would have the expertise to judge such a move. "It seems wrong ... to totally bypass them since that's what they're already doing."

Kingman resident Luis Vega pointed out that Kingman is one of the cities in Arizona that is exempt from the state's Department of Water Resources standards that require a water study for new developments. He said Rhodes currently has one awaiting approval from the department for one of its developments, and he said if the city were to pass the boundary expansion, the water study wouldn't be required because the development would fall within the boundaries.

Beecher said the city would still make Rhodes conduct the study.

One of the benefits of the proposal is that expanding the boundary doesn't automatically mean that the development in question receives water service. Each developer will still have to come to the Council for individual requests.

A possible threat to the city, though, is the county, which doesn't have Kingman's best interest - a long-term water supply - in mind, Beecher said.

Council voted unanimously to postpone the expansion request until the MUC reviews it. The topic will come up again in March.