Final vote on higher wastewater rates today

KINGMAN - Members of the public will get their chance to speak out on proposed raises to the city's water and wastewater rates at today's meeting of the Kingman City Council.

Council will discuss raising the current average residential water rate from $28.69 to $29.26, an increase of 52 cents, or 1.8 percent. Members will also discuss raising the average sewer bill from $32.07 to $40.09, an increase of $8.02, or 25 percent.

While Council has discussed the raises at length over the past several months, today's meeting marks the final vote prior to the new rates taking effect Jan. 1, and thus the last chance for the public to make its feelings known.

Council has repeatedly pressed the need for the rate increases in order to pay off several multi-million dollar loans that are being used to construct the Hilltop and Downtown Wastewater Treatment plants, as well as various water system improvements such as expanded mains and new pumping equipment. For that reason, the city has already raised the water and wastewater rates several times in the last few years and will likely continue to do so for the next several years as well as it works to pay down its balances.

In previous meetings, City Finance Director Coral Loyd has explained that the reason Council is pursuing such a large sewer rate increase is because the city has not collected anywhere near as much from previous sewer rate increases as it thought it would. Added to that, the state has passed a two-year moratorium on new impact fees, meaning the city cannot turn to new growth to shoulder more of the financial burden - not that there has been much new growth to speak of in the last two years, anyway.

Compounding the situation is the fact that, if the city fails to upgrade the Hilltop and Downtown Wastewater Treatment plants to get them into compliance with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the city could face fines of up to $25,000 per day, as well as a moratorium on issuing any new building permits. Both existing plants have been out of compliance with state and federal nitrogen removal standards for several years.

Elsewhere on the agenda, Council will hear a recommendation from the Economic Development and Marketing Commission on possibly disbanding the commission's "Shop Local" subcommittee to instead partner with the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce to combine their efforts to spread the word on the benefits of buying products locally whenever possible.

Council will also consider whether to give the Neighborhood Services department a green light to remove a metal shipping container at a home on Franklin Drive. The container, which is in violation of the city Planning and Zoning ordinance, has been deemed a public nuisance by the city since it houses a hive of more than 100,000 bees, according to the estimates of a local beekeeper.

The owners of the property have repeatedly assured Neighborhood Services of their desire to remove the cargo container, but had failed to do so within 30 days of their initial contact on Aug. 17. Neighborhood Services estimates it would cost between $1,000 and $2,000 to remove the container and remediate the beehive, which is estimated to be about four years old and 14 feet long. The property owners have filed an appeal against the abatement.

In a similar vein, Council will receive an update from City Attorney Carl Cooper on his department's efforts to revise the city's nuisance codes. Cooper's office, in accordance with the Clean City Commission, has spent the last several weeks reviewing the codes and soliciting public comments on how they might be improved.

According to Cooper, the current code, which was adopted in 2000, places a heavy emphasis on voluntary compliance and officer discretion. Prior to re-writing the code, Cooper is expected to ask Council whether it would like to seek stricter enforcement measures, including the possibility of mandatory fee schedules and the like.

Today's meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 310 N. Fourth St. For full agenda details, visit www.cityofkingman.gov and click "Agendas, Minutes and Video."