Cave Creek Water Co. increase high enough to merit reconsideration?

By Curtis Riggs | June 24, 2009

Proposing 3 percent
CAVE CREEK – Objections to the increase in Cave Creek Water Company rates range from a base rate so high it doesn’t promote conservation to bills doubling, or tripling in areas where service is lacking.

Andrew Z.’s nearly tripled from $39 to just over $108 even with reduced usage because he has stopped irrigation. He says his “water pressure fluctuates and the service is erratic” at his home in one of Cave Creek’s oldest neighborhoods. His concerns about his service from the water company do not stop there.

“If there is an increase in cost there has to be an underlying increase in value. The service should be better,” he said. “The billing and customer service leave much to be desired.”
Tom, who lives in the same area as Andrew Z., is upset by his $59 base rate because it provides little incentive for him to conserve water.

“Now my water bill is more than my APS bill and it doesn’t help to conserve,” he said.
Longtime Cave Creek residents Leonard and Barbara Koca are kept awake at night worrying about how they will pay their water bill. The senior citizens on a fixed income are considering what essential they may have to give up because of the rate increase.

“I will be paying four-times more than I previously did, and according to town hall it doesn’t matter how much, or how little water I use,” Leonard said. “I’m paying for the delivery of the water.”

Cave Creek Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow stresses, “The rates have stayed the same for 23 years.” The increase is necessary because it is what is required for the water company to pay its own bills.

“With the economy the way it is we had to do it all at once,” she said.

Mayor Vincent Francia vows to have the town council revisit the rates every year in an attempt to see if the town is generating enough revenue to look at reducing them.

“We can ask to review the rates at any time,” he said about appointing new Town Councilman Ralph Mozilo to head a committee to examine the rates soon after the new town council is seated.

“But no promises are being made…,” he said. Reducing rates for one group of citizens is “a very slippery slope.

“If you lower them for people on a fixed income then why not do it for a working mother?” he asks.

He offered business owners and people who keep many horses as other good candidates for a rate reduction.

Like Marlow, Francia is now primarily concerned about retiring the water company’s debt. He suggests reducing the base rate charged could be in order, however.

“It’s not the intent of the town council to make life hard on its citizens,” he said.