EPCOR district consolidation fight continues in Sun Cities

By Rusty Bradshaw
Independent Newsmedia

Sun Cities residents can contribute to the legal effort to overturn the Arizona Corporation Commission’s order to consolidate five wastewater districts in the Northwest Valley.

The Sun City Home Owners Association Board of Directors committed to file an appeal of the June 13 decision that will mean a doubling of Sun Cities’ residential sewer bills. The appeal is expected to be filed later this summer if there is sufficient financial support to do so, according to Greg Eisert, SCHOA board member and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman.

“SCHOA does not have the finances to fund this alone,” he said. “We need a real community effort.”

SCHOA officials called for residents to donate to a legal fund. Mr. Eisert initially estimated it could cost $60,000 for the appeal.

Carole Studdard, SCHOA executive director, said about 25 percent of that amount was collected through June’s end, but more is needed.

“An attorney has been hired and the appeal process has begun based on the support of Sun City residents,” she stated in a press release. “Funds are needed and will continue to be for months to come.”

SCHOA officials hope to raise the initial estimate of $60,000 by July’s end. Donations can be made at the Schoa office, 10401 W. Coggins Drive, Sun City, or mailed there (ZIP code 85351).

Carole Studdard

“Recognizing at this time of the year about 30 percent of the community isn’t in Sun City, email blasts continue to keep neighbors who are away informed and they, too, are responding to the appeal,” Ms. Studdard stated.

She added SCHOA officials hope to have the ability to make donations on the SCHOA website, www.suncityhoa.org, by mid-July.

Recreation Centers of Sun City officials, while not able to financially contribute to the fund because of limitations in its governing documents, committed to helping SCHOA officials spread the word. Because it is a voluntary membership agency, SCHOA’s address list is smaller than RCSC’s.

Jan Ek, RCSC general manager, affirmed in the board’s June 29 meeting that RCSC will see an impact on the increased rates that will result from the consolidation.

“It will be a lesser impact, but we will feel it as well,” she said.

Residents could also see an additional impact if the RCSC board decides the commercial wastewater rate increase is such that it requires an annual property assessment increase at year’s end.

Sun City residents will see about an 80 percent increase in wastewater rates as a result of the consolidation. Sun City West residents will see about a 30 percent increase. In comparison, residents in the other three districts — Agua Fria, Anthem and Mohave — will see a decrease in their rates.

Some Corte Bella residents, served by the Agua Fria district, believe consolidation and the resulting shift in rates, is justified because their higher rates have been subsidizing the Sun Cities for years, based on all Northwest Valley districts using the same treatment plant.

Greg Eisert

However, Mr. Eisert said the major reason Sun Cities residents have been paying lower rates is because the Sun Cities wastewater infrastructure was paid off by the developer — Del Webb Corp. — while residents in the other districts are still paying for their infrastructure as part of their rate.

ACC commissioners, with Bob Burns dissenting, voted for consolidation despite overwhelming opposition from Sun Cities residents. During the past four years, SCHOA has sponsored town hall meetings, invited the ACC commissioners to attend an open meeting in Sun City to listen to residents first hand, offered educational workshops informing residents the importance of signing petitions, writing letters, and encouraging and educating community members about the impact of consolidation. SCHOA has been assisted by RCSC and the Retirement Community Association of Sun City. In January, those three agencies sponsored buses to assist residents in going to the ACC public hearing. Six buses were filled and residents expressed their concerns regarding consolidation and the serious impact this could have on them.

EPCOR officials are now expected to file a rate request to consolidate its five Northwest Valley water districts.
“That would mean even higher rate increases for Sun Cities residents than the wastewater consolidation,” Mr. Eisert.

Visit www.azcc.gov and search for case No. WS-01303A-16-0145 for information on the rate request, including arguments on both sides of the issue.

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