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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions April 29, 2016

6/18/2013 11:56:00 AM
Editorial: Short memories on Verde Village water service

The handwriting is on the wall as it relates to higher utility rates for the City of Cottonwood's water and wastewater systems.

It's going to happen. The demands of the bond agreements that financed the system really give the city no choice.

So, it's only human nature that there is, and will continue to be, citizen complaints over this "gouging" by the city.

And so far, the loudest of these complaints are coming from the folks in Verde Village. For decades now, the Village has resisted attempts to be annexed into the city. Now that Cottonwood owns and controls the Verde Village water system, Village residents are without voter clout, if not a voice, over how much they are charged for water. Ditto for the folks in Verde Santa Fe.

In the case of Verde Village, one can't help but wonder if those registering the complaints over water rates do not have short memories, or are in dire need of a history lesson about water service to the sprawling 8-unit subdivision.

Prior to Cottonwood assuming the responsibility of water service to Verde Village, there was the Cordes Lakes Water Co. During the summer months, service was often a crap shoot. Water pressure was typically low in all or parts of Verde Village. You received flyers advising you to ration your water. And, it was not unexpected to have periods of two to four days where you would not have any water at all.

"The former operators of the Verde Village water systems," said Cottonwood Development Services Manager Dan Lueder, "would purposely isolate areas of the system by either pinching or closing off completely sections of the distribution system to ration water. Once the residents in those areas would call complaining about no water, the valves would be reopened and the crew would then repeat this action in a different area."

By comparison, since Cottonwood took over the Verde Village system in 2004, there have only been three instances where water delivery has been interrupted for extended periods. Two of those were for 2-3 hours and were the result of storm-related power outages suffered by Arizona Public Service. The most severe interruption in service occurred in July 2006 when a microburst storm dropped five inches of rain in a couple of hours and resulted in widespread flooding and the washout of approximately 400-500 feet of water main located in washes in Verde Village 2. Most areas were back in service within about eight hours and the most heavily damaged areas were back in service within 36 hours.

Three times in nine years. That's obviously a lot better than the prior company policy that purposely and regularly left areas of the Village high and dry because it had insufficient water storage and delivery capabilities.

Yes, the folks in Verde Village pay more for water service today than they did in the old days of the Cordes Lakes Water Co. They are also getting far superior service.

You get what you pay for, and when it's 110 degrees outside the folks in Verde Village should be mighty thankful the City of Cottonwood is their water provider.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Article comment by: John French

In today's economy where most businesses have had to scale back and make cuts. Just out of curiosity "City of Cottonwood" have you? Have all of your employees had to take a paycheck cut? Or, are you running like our federal governmant, Full steam ahead, creating new jobs and new taxes! I'm guessing the latter. The people of the United States as well as our little community are tired of perceived government excess. I think maybe you should re-think how you are getting ready to punish those of us that are a integral part of the financial health of the city of Cottonwood!

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

Funny, I have lived here 20 years, NEVER been without water, not an HOUR, not a day.

WHOOPS . . . I take that back, I was WITHOUT water on the City of Cottonwood's watch.

One of their techs MISTAKELY turned MY water off instead of the RENTAL next door . . .

THAT never happened with Cordes Lakes!


P.S. I will FIGHT annexation with every ounce of my BEING, so give up your SLEEZY, back door tactics. Who the heck would want to be part of Cottonwood? WE already KNOW your true colors. I am NOT paying for a SEWER or ANYTHING else we don't need. Beautiful 'REC' center, too bad only the WEALTHY can afford it.

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Article comment by: @ VV guy- where did the paper say that? ??

Re-read the previous story... nothing mentioned the amounts of rate increase.

The way you state it folks might think that outside areas will be paying 2.5 times what the inside area does.

That would in fact be incorrect. The base rate for a 5/8" service will go up $5.00 inside city limits and $12.00 outside city limits. So the increase difference would technically be 2.4 times, but not the actual rate. Using back of envelope math that would then be a difference of 1.3 times as much... not the implied 2.5 times. So that would be an error of 1.9 times the truth? (2.4/1.3=1.92307692308)

You could always drill your own well but that seems a bit pricey.

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Article comment by: @ yes there is, please let us know -

Please let us know what you learned while attending the budget work session meetings the city has been and is having this week.

I am sure you have been attending these meetings right?

Since you are so concerned about and seem to have the answers to all the issues that are listed, surely you are attending these public meeting and letting your voice be heard?

Looking forward to your reporting on the topic, we are sure it will be fully informed, more so than referencing a single sheet out of a 100 plus page report.

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Article comment by: Ashley S

@v>v>guy using water, if it's true that the rates for verde village will be two and a half times higher than in-city rates, then it's another thinly veiled attempt by the City of Cottonwood to force the annexation of the village units. Money, money, money!!

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Article comment by: Yes there is another choice

The premise of this editorial is flawed because yes there is another choice, and a reasonable one too.

Cottonwood has the means and capacity to just pay off its debt and therefore have no obligation to bondholders.

And in any event, the City's first and primary responsibility is to serve its people, not bondholders, and not S&P analysts.

Here's the deal: The City of Cottonwood generates tremendous liquidity, close to a million dollars a month in sales tax revenue.

Its 2012 financial statement showed the City had close to $35 million saved up. According to City Manager Doug Bartosh, roughly half that amount is allocated toward debt service, and the other half for capital expenditures. In other words, to buy things.

The biggest upcoming capital expense the City has budgeted is this unnecessarily extravagant solar powered wastewater treatment plant proposed for Riverfront Park. It will cost anywhere from roughly $8 million to $15 million.

No one really knows, because the price keeps going up.

The choice Cottonwood has is this: do we really need this best-in-the-state showcase facility, or should we instead do something more conservative and practical? Something more appropriate for Cottonwood?

In making this decision, let's remember this is Cottonwood.

The people of Cottonwood are poor, relatively speaking. Census statistics show a poverty rate in Cottonwood of close to 25%. The median household income in Cottonwood is about one-third less than the state average. Two out of three single mothers in Cottonwood are poverty-striken.

The City government may be rich, but the people who support the City government are not. If we had the socioeconomic status of Paradise Valley then maybe yes to a showcase sewage treatment plant. Maybe then it is appropriate to send Dan Leuder jetting off to Nashville to brag about this.

But Cottonwood is not Scottsdale, Doug Bartosh. Cottonwood is not Sedona, Diane Joens. Maybe you wish it were, but it is not.

See the people of this city, the people who support you, for who they really are: struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table, living from paycheck to paycheck.

A utility rate increase will hurt most the people who can least afford it. The City already socks it to the little guy with a regressive 3% tax on rent, and most of the city's poorest people are renters.

So yes there is a choice. The city should pay off its debt and put the interests of its people first and foremost.

Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Article comment by: V>V> guy using water


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