Glendale takes resident input on proposed utility rate hikes

By Cecilia Chan
Independent Newsmedia

John Brown is critical when it comes to Glendale looking to potentially hike rates for water, sewer and trash.

He attended the first of four open houses by the city to take public input, which will be presented to the City Council at a future meeting when it votes on the issue. Last week’s event at the Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center featured rows of informational poster boards and staff on hand to answer questions. A survey also was provided. A total of six people attended the event while 17 viewed it livestream, according to the city.

“Do an independent audit,” Mr. Brown said. He has listened to a staff presentation at a council workshop and was not satisfied with a citizens committee recommendation to hike rates.

The Glendale City Council.

The Citizens Utility Advisory Commission has recommended to the council two options. The first option calls for  a 7.5 percent hike for the first two years with lower hikes for the following three years and the second option calls for a 10.2 percent hike the fist year with a 5 percent hike for each of the following four years. Staff has recommended the council consider hikes for the next two fiscal years  and take a wait-and-see approach for the following years.

The first rate increase would kick in Dec. 1 and the second increase Jan. 1, 2019.

“I hope the committee looked at not just the numbers,” Mr. Brown said, adding they should have looked at things such as the age and life left on  the equipment.

He added it was  irrelevant Glendale would be still be in the middle of the pack among Valley communities for utility bills, behind Surprise, Phoenix, Mesa and Goodyear with the rate hike.

“As far as they are probably in the middle of the road, it doesn’t mean they can’t be more efficient,” said Mr. Brown, who moved to the city in 1980.

More importantly, he said, is how the city is using its money and if the rates can go lower.

The last time Glendale increased water and sewer rates was in 2010 and for trash, 2008. It did not increase rates due to the recession.

Water Services Director Craig Johnson said city staff did an internal assessment of the equipment and an outside consultant looked over the financials.

He said the council can go with one of the recommended rate increases or not do anything.

However, not raising rates mean further depletion of reserves and a slow-down of the capital improvement plan, he said.

In the June workshop presentation, Mr. Johnson told the council the city had spent $50 million over the past six years for projects, involving sewer pipes, the water distribution system and water treatment plants, and some projects were deferred.

He said in order not to risk reliability and redundancy of the city’s water system, it was now time to take advantage of the economic upturn and do a bit of catch up and bring the program back to where it should be.

Council was given a list of 38 projects totaling $257 million ranked important to critical for fiscal year 2016-17 to fiscal year 2021-22. Projects included upgrades to Arrowhead Water Reclamation Facility, replacement of sewer pipes in Arrowhead Ranch area and fire hydrant replacements.

The council was scheduled Aug. 1 at workshop to hear a presentation justifying the proposed rate increases. Staff is expected to go over a detailed list of capital improvement projects and explain the need for the project and the potential consequences of postponing or forgoing projects entirely.

Eugene Walker said he showed up at the open house to learn how the increase would affect his wallet.

He lives in a county island near 100th and Northern avenues and said he receives two bills, one from Glendale for water and one from Peoria for sewer.

“It will have very little effect,” he said, adding he is looking at a potential $2.50 extra a month for water. “I’m OK with that.”

Another open house took place Thursday night at Foothills Library.

Public meetings for input on proposed rate increases

  • 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Aug. 12, Glendale City Hall, basement level, 5850 W. Glendale Ave.
  • 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 15, Glendale Adult Center, 5970 W. Brown St.

Residents who attend the open house can give a city staffer calculate how much their utility bill would go up if the rates take effect.

A survey is posted on the city website for those unable to attend at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WW3XD6X.  

Glendale water services by the numbers

  • 15 billion gallons of water annually cleaned and transported (equivalent to  23,010 Olympic0sized swimming pools).
  • 1,040 miles of water lines and 703 miles of sewer pipes maintained (equivalent to the distance from Glendale to Chicago).
  • Over 8,400 fire hydrants maintained
  • 6 billion gallon of wastewater transported and cleaned (equivalent to 1.7 billion toilet flushes).

Source: City of Glendale

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