Request To Raise Water Rates Resurfaces

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Two hot topics an increase in water rates and affordable housing are on the agenda for a special Payson Town Council meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5 at Town Hall.

Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker proposed a water rate increase Aug. 10 from $13.65 to $18.65 for users of less than 10,000 gallons per month. At that time, the council directed Walker to prepare additional options, including imposing a larger portion of the increase on high-use customers.

Walker has prepared seven rate-increase options for the council that are expected to raise $400,000 a year, most involving increases in the monthly service charge.

"The scenarios we're providing give a rough idea of the effect of different types of rate structures and philosophies," Walker said.

The additional revenues are needed, he said, to offset a five-year decrease in the water department's spending reserves. According to Chief Fiscal Officer Glenn Smith, the town has been depleting its reserves at the rate of $125,000 a year for the past three years.

If the council passes a motion to announce the town's intent to raise water rates, a public hearing will be scheduled before the increase is adopted.

At councilmember Hoby Herron's request, the affordable housing discussion will begin with an attempt to define that term. Then the council will discuss possible action to relax water demand limits for affordable housing and economic development projects within the Green Valley Redevelopment Area.

As part of that discussion, the town's Housing Advisory Committee will recommend some minimum criteria for affordable housing within the area. These include giving preference to multi-family rentals and relaxing peak water demand limits to enable a minimum of 60 multi-family units per project if the developer/owner is willing to sign an agreement with the town limiting occupancy to people whose income does not exceed the Gila County median income, and to charge rents not to exceed 120 percent of the fair market rent in Gila County.

For a one-bedroom unit, the maximum that could be charged is $456 a month, for a two-bedroom unit the maximum charge is $580 a month.

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