ESTRELLA WATER RATES ON THE RISE
Estrella residents will be paying more for water starting New Year's Day 2016.
Tonight, the Goodyear City Council held a public hearing on the proposed utility rate hikes. They also voted on the rate hike proposal.
The vote on the city’s proposed five-year utility rate plan:
Goodyear is dedicated to protecting the city's water supply. Concerns about the reliability of water and wastewater systems spurred this move. But the city knew it had to deliver the highest quality service at the lowest cost possible.
Goodyear's water wells are aging. Some up to 75-years-old. Our city needs more than $50 million to rehab, replace, and build wells. We, the ratepayers, will pick up the tab.
It's an investment in our future. It's not a luxury. It's a requirement," Vice Mayor Sheri Lauritano. (Estrella resident.)
How much more will we be paying? The experts at tonight's meeting report it could be up $20 a month more over the next five years. Rates will be raised in January of each year to 2020.
How did the Water Planning Committee come to this conclusion? Here is the full report.
City water and sewer customers primarily living south of Interstate will be affected by the plan. The new rates would not affect those living north of the I-10 who receive their water from Liberty Utilities," City of Goodyear.
Council approved a resolution for a water planning committee in April 2014. The City began a search for committee members in May 2014. The goal was to get it up and running by August. The committee met for the first time just one year ago.
Goodyear Water Planning Committee: 11 volunteers consisted of residents, two water employees from Southwest Valley cities, and Arizona State Rep. Lynne Pancrazi (D)
The committee examined multi-family and commercial rate structures and cost of service.
Water Specialist working with the committee: Carollo Engineers Inc. It completed a Five-Year Capital Improvement Program. They assessed the immediate needs for water, wastewater and reclaimed water systems and condition. They also did a condition assessment to identify additional water and wastewater capital projects needed.
Economists.com analyzed the best rate plan.
The committee was tasked with "looking at cost-effective methods to treat and deliver water to its customers while maintaining infrastructure."
Jumping hurdles to find water and pay for it is nothing new. When I was on the city council in 2012-13, we frequently had meetings discussing water stores and funding for the next 100 years. In fact, it's state-mandated that municipalities have enough water supplies to expand while cities grow.
Like most West Valley cities, we do not have the water supplies for buildout,” said Mark Holmes, water resources manager for the city of Goodyear. “We feel strong that we’re good for the next 15 years of solid growth. We’re looking for new water supplies needed for the next block of growth (2030-2045).
Did you know?
68% Goodyear's water comes from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project.
A rate hike should NOT come as a surprise.
A community meeting was held this past June so residents and business owners could find out more about the infrastructure upgrades. It was announced by the city in multiple email blasts and on the city website, it was in the newspaper, and we even mentioned it on our private residents Facebook page here. Customers also received direct mail and bill inserts about the committee's work.
The committee also determined the wastewater treatment plant needed improvements and the Central Arizona Project needed water funding, line oversizing, and increases to operational costs.
Review the committee meeting minutes here.
According to the committee's report, the last major change to Goodyear's utility rates was adopted by city council in May 2009. At that time, average customers saw a less than $2 increase to their overall water and wastewater bill. Unfortunately, that rate hike wasn't enough to cover operating expenses.
The new rates approved tonight will affect businesses, too. Here's what those rates would look like.
City sanitation rates were not factored into this project. Just water and waste water rates changed.
The Goodyear Water Planning Committee also recommended a new Conservation Committee be established in 2016. We'll let you know if we hear anything about that and how to apply.
Giving of your time to ensure the water supply... Thank you. Giving of time is what makes us a great community. We truly appreciate what you've done," Councilmember Pizzillo speaking to the committee.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Let’s rewind for a moment.
Three years ago, the City of Goodyear hired water-resources manager Mark Holmes. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone so passionate about their job. He’s a walking encyclopedia on water and truly cares about our city’s future.
He walked in to a very complex water-policy challenge. And he’s tackled it brilliantly. Goodyear just earned its second national recognition as a leader in implementing innovative water use. In fact, this year, our All-America City was the ONLY Arizona city to win a Top Ten Award from the Water and Waste Digest.
Goodyear is dousing its spring training complex with water that once was polluted as part of a Superfund site but that now has been cleaned and is delivered to the city complex at no cost,” Arizona Republic - May 7, 2015.
Our city’s Water Resources Division won this incredible recognition for the remediated water line from the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport South Superfund site to the Reds and Indians practice fields.
City of Goodyear and Phoenix Goodyear Airport South Superfund Remediated Water Line
Water and Waste Digest
Last year, Goodyear also received the Top Ten Award for the Vadose Injection Project in which high-capacity wells on city land were designed to store more reclaimed water. This project maximizes our water supply to ensure sustainable water resource management. In fact, construction on the wells starts in January 2016.
When water issues came to us on the city council in 2012-13, I brought up the fact that just a couple of the council members actually live south of the I-10. Remember, residents north of the I-10 depend on water coming from another utility company. They are NOT impacted by tonight's water rate hike. I fully believe lawmakers should have to live by the rules and rate hikes they vote for. Estrella residents should keep this in mind when they vote... if they do vote... which is another blog for another night.
I applaud Mayor Lord for pointing out how difficult it is to be on committees like this. Raising rates never goes over well with neighbors and fellow residents. But as Mayor Lord said, "This is leadership."
As much as it pains me to say it, the rate hikes are something we simply have to do. I never realized how dire our water situation was until I joined the city council three years ago. Making these fixes now will help us in the future.
The city is planning for our future 100 years down the road. Think about that. I'm guessing I wouldn't even recognize our little city at that point.
Going forward, I would like to see the city find a way to get the H2OwnIt Landscape Awards program back on track. I had the pleasure of working on this committee in the summer of 2013. It appears some updates and education need to be done with Home Owner Associations to make the program work. I will keep you updated...
Kudos to the City of Goodyear. I'm proud to be a resident here.
GET WATER WISE
Fixing a Leak NOW Could Take You Out to a Ballgame in 2016
The Goodyear Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians challenge you to fix a leak or make other changes that save water. If you act now, you could receive two outfield box tickets, compliments of the teams to attend a Spring Training Game at Goodyear Ballpark. You would be able to choose which game you attend during U. S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense Fix a Leak Week—March 14-20, 2016.
High water users can reduce outdoor water usage by 20% to 30% if they consistently change their practices.
Goodyear's H2O365 program offers all households in good standing with their municipal accounts the opportunity to check their water efficiency. The focus will be on checking the outdoor irrigation system for leaks, missing or malfunctioning parts and reasonable timing.
Those customers south of I-10 who use over 13,000 gallons of water per month on average and those customers north of I-10 who have a combined water bill of over $94.30 per month are considered high users.
What would cause your water use to increase?
I sent a note in to the City of Goodyear to ask for an updated population number. I appreciate the quick response!
The estimate comes to 11,431.
Estimating a population is an "inexact science." I'm told this number may be a little low. And that's why it is so important for us to respond to the U.S. Census workers. The Special Census is expected to last through November.
OCTOBER 26, 2015 COUNCIL MEETING GALLERY
*Note: Estrella's facilities need work, as well. See the photos in our gallery below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.