Council Moves On Water Rate Hike

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In an attempt to provide more incentive to conserve water, the town council voted 6-1 Thursday evening to hold a public hearing on a 15-percent rate increase for users of more than 5,000 gallons per month.

During peak use months, the increase would affect about half of the town's water customers, according to Public Works Director Buzz Walker. In winter months, Walker estimates less than one-third would be affected.

Town Manager Rich Underkofler proposed the increase based on recommendations contained in the Water Department's Groundwater Management Status Report and the Payson Strategic Plan for the current fiscal year. Noting recent increases in water usage, both documents call for consumption-related increases to encourage year-round conservation.

The council increased the minimum monthly charge from $13.65 per month to $18.65 Oct. 26, but the increase was not consumption-related.

While two consumption-related increases have been passed in the past three years for customers using more than 10,000 gallons per month, users of 5,000-plus gallons have not experienced an increase since Aug, 1993, Walker said.

In explaining the recommendation, Underkofler said, "Several members of the council said they wanted to consider a consumption-related increase as a water conservation measure." The public hearing will be held Dec. 13.

In other action Thursday night, the Town Council:

Referred Arizona Public Service's request to erect a 150-foot microwave communications tower in the parking lot of its service center at 400 W. Longhorn Road to the Planning and Zoning Commission for reconsideration. APS was appealing the commission's recent denial of its request.

Officials of the power company told the council the tower is needed to improve power line protection on the major transmission lines to the Preacher Canyon substation that provides much of Payson's power.

Approved a request by Underkofler to allow Tetra Tech to proceed with phase three of a master drainage and redevelopment plan for the American Gulch Flood Plain Area, approximately 74 acres south of Main Street and north of Aero Drive between Sawmill Crossing and Green Valley Park. As part of that project, the town manager was also granted authorization to initiate negotiations for three parcels of land in the redevelopment area.

The parcels, which have combined appraised values of $1,045,000, would allow the development of additional open space and park area from Green Valley Park to Sawmill Crossing.

In its conceptual plan, Tetra Tech says, "The channel will connect Green Valley Park with Sawmill Crossing with pedestrian trails that meander through a naturalized channel able to carry a 100-year stormwater capacity."

During the public comment portion of the meeting:

Representatives of the Citizens Awareness Committee presented petitions containing 1,476 signatures calling on the council to impose a moratorium on new subdivisions until additional water sources are developed.

In presenting the petition, CAC member Ken Knapp reminded the council that by the town's own estimates "safe yield" will be exceeded by 2002.

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