Town May Scale Back Water Rate Increase

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The Payson Town Council will convene a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday to consider limiting the scope of a proposed water rate increase for high end users.

Public Works Director Buzz Walker is recommending that the increase be scaled back so it only applies to users of 5,000 to 10,000 gallons per month. The original recommendation by former Town Manager Rich Underkofler called for a 15 percent increase on all users of more than 5,000 gallons.

"Those using more than 10,000 gallons had a rate increase last year, and we haven't had time to see if that is working," Walker said. "I'm saying let's implement a small part of this and then look at a bigger one next year.

"That's just too big a bite."

Actually two consumption-related increases have been passed in the last three years for customers using over 10,000 gallons per month, while users of 5,000-plus gallons have not experienced an increase since Aug., 1993, according to Walker.

The increase is designed to provide more incentive to conserve water, and was 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.

When the regular council meeting convenes at 6 p.m. citizens who want to address that body on a nonagenda subject will be able to do so at the beginning of the meeting one last time. Despite voting to move the public comments portion to the end of the agenda on Jan. 10, a decision that drew considerable criticism, the item remains in its normal position near the beginning of the agenda.

"When an ordinance is passed it can't take effect for 30 days," said Interim Town Manager Kelly Udall. "This one will be effective beginning with the Feb. 14 meeting."

Once the council gets down to business, key items on the regular meeting agenda include:

Approval of agreements to purchase the Garcia property for $660,000 and the Payson Humane Society property for $210,000. The town plans to incorporate the two properties into an extension of Green Valley Park that will feature walking and biking trails, said Main Street Manager Karen Greenspoon.

According to Udall, the properties are "just the first of many that will be affected by the drainage channel going through there."

Acceptance of a grant offer from the Arizona State Parks Board to add a new restroom facility, picnic ramada and information kiosk on the south side of Green Valley Park adjacent to the Parks Department offices. The grant is for $125,000 with the town matching $25,000.

"We get a lot of use on our end of the park," said Parks Director Bill Schwind. "Our office becomes a kind of freeway."

Once completed, probably next winter, Green Valley Park will have three public restroom facilities.

Awarding a contract to Mercer Group, Inc., to assist in locating and selecting a new town manager. The amount of the contract cannot exceed $20,000.

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