Williams City Council will consider a water rate hike at its May 9 meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. at city hall. Should council approve an increase, it will take effect 30 days later.
Prior to that, there is ample time for local residents to research the matter, pose questions and give input.
Joe Duffy, city finance director, has put together a 14-page report analyzing Williams water and wastewater rates. It explains why the rate hike is needed, lists proposed increases and compares Williams’ water rates to other Arizona towns. Copies are available at city hall’s front counter.
“The economic reality is that using and maintaining deep wells is extremely expensive,” Duffy’s report states. “This expense is exacerbated by the years of drought the community has faced.”
He estimated the city would spend $240,000 per year pumping both wells and a minimum of $100,000 anytime a pump is pulled and replaced.
“Based on these two expenses alone, the utility fund must increase its revenues by at least $340,000 per year,” Duffy’s report states. “However, in order to minimize the impact on local residents, a $300,000 rate increase is proposed.
“This amount will be sufficient assuming that the reservoirs fill next winter and no major well failures happen next year.”
When city council heard about the proposed rate increase on March 28, Ken Edes, mayor, and Pat Carpenter, council member, requested two more scenarios. Edes asked staff to reduce the proposed rate hike to $250,000 per year. Carpenter wanted to see what an additional $400,000 built in would do to water rates and suggested the additional funds be uses for well drilling.
Under these three proposals, rate increases will range from 17 to 38 percent for city residents and businesses, 162 to 208 percent for commercial water haulers and 115 to 153 percent for county residents buying water at the rodeo grounds.
In a rate comparison with 16 other cities, Williams' water is currently one of the highest at $29.20 per 7,750 gallons. Only Flagstaff is higher at $29.49. Show Low charges $28.82 per 4,750 gallons, Prescott Valley $24.50, Sedona $23.10, Phoenix $19.28 and Winslow $13.66. With a $300,000 annual increase built into Williams’ water rates, our town will top the list at $36.55 per 7,750 gallons.
Council last adopted a water rate increase in February 2001, which raised fees from $6.21 per 1,000 gallons to $6.72 for residential and commercial users in town, $11.08 per 1,000 gallons to $12.52 for water haulers and $7.82 per 1,000 gallons to $8.83 for commercial water haulers. At the same time, residential sewer rates went up from $10.99 per month to $13.
The simple fact of the matter is the cost of Williams' water has soared since the city has had to drill deep wells to secure it. With persistent drought conditions in the Southwest, many communities are facing water issues similar to ours.