Vol. 15 Issue No. 9 | March 4 - 10, 2009

Water system upgrades awarded Public Works Project of the Year

By Linda Bentley | March 4, 2009

Building department can review feasibility of switching to one-inch meter

CAVE CREEK – In addition to reminding everyone to vote this coming Tuesday, Mayor Vincent Francia made another announcement during Monday night’s meeting about Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow receiving an award, which he asked her to explain.

Marlow said the American Public Works Association (APWA) Arizona Chapter has selected the Town of Cave Creek – Emergency Water System Upgrades project as this year’s Public Works Project of the Year. The project has now been forwarded on to APWA National to compete for the National Public Works Project of the Year.

During Call to the Public, Cave Creek Museum Executive Director Evelyn Johnson showed council a picture of the 1878 stamp mill the museum has in its possession and said it will be moving to its permanent home at the museum on May 5. Currently stored in pieces, Johnson is seeking volunteers to assist with the project and said it will require about 2,000 hours to get the stamp mill moved and set up.

Korina Riggin thanked the town for the work done to the bike lane since the previous meeting when a man pointed out it was full of debris and was causing safety concerns. She also said she was thrilled to see Cave Creek was featured in Sunset Magazine.

Marlow went through the water rate presentation and said the building department can determine the feasibility, depending on the number of fixtures, of switching customers from a two-inch meter to a one inch meter, which would result in substantial savings when the new rates go into effect. However, she recommended contacting the town “now,” so changes can be made before the new rates go into effect.

Councilwoman Kim Brennan recommended sending out a notification to customers on two-inch meters.

During public comment, George Ross said the town has limited means of obtaining revenue and noted the new rates will only be in effect for one month before the town’s debt service payment is due.

He also pointed out businesses in town have their sewer fees subsidized to a tune of $500,000 per year.

Adam Trenk said the tiered rate structure makes sense for residential customers because it encourages conservation. However, he said for businesses there is a point of diminishing returns by drastically increasing the rates and encouraged council to reconsider.

Scott Dahne said, “If you see fit to make changes, I want to see your hours of analysis. Stop the political BS,” and recommended council pass the new rates. Dahne said if council decides to change things that volunteers have spent long hours analyzing in order to come up with its recommendations, no one will want to serve on any more committees.

David Phelps said, “I agree we need to raise the rates. Money has been spent and bills have to be paid.”

Bruce Biemeck said the water department can’t be subsidized and operation of the water department is run very efficiently.

He said the committee did a great job and stated, “A case can almost be made for rates higher than this.”

Councilman Ernie Bunch moved to approve the second reading and said, “It’s unfortunate, but we have to do this. We have no choice. We hoped to subsidize this with development fees.”

Seconding the motion, Councilman Dick Esser said, “This is something we have to do.
Councilwoman Grace Meeth said, “I’ve given my reasons in the past for not supporting this.”
Vice Mayor Gilbert Lopez said, “I oppose this based on principle. The town has lost its ability to manage its finances,” and accused the town of ignoring all the indications about where the economy was going.

“We’re told we’re spreading fear,” said Lopez, “We’re spreading truth. Sometimes the truth hurts.”

Francia commented, “I’m going to stay on the agenda,” as he thanked the committee for all their work and called for a vote.

The second reading passed by a vote of 5-2, with Lopez and Meeth dissenting. The new rates will go into effect April 13.

Courtesy Photo: Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow