By Shanana Rain Golden-Bear
Quartzsite Town Manager Laura Bruno issued the following Public Notice Intent to Increase Waste Water Fees and Service Fees, dated July 10, 2013. (see below). This notice was posted on the front page of the Town's website.
A public hearing is scheduled for
Tues. August 13th, 2013 at 6:30 pm at Town Hall.
In the Town's Official Public Notice, below, the Town Logo and Letterhead is conspicuously missing. Even the Town Hall address is buried in a paragraph on the last page, and there's no phone number for contacting Town Hall listed anywhere. Compare this to the Notice sent out to water users which does contain the Town Logo, Letterhead and easy-to-find contact information.
This past week, Quartzsite water customers then received the following 3-page Notice of Proposed Sewer Rate Increase. When questioned why the two notices appear to be so different, Bruno stated at yesterday's Town Hall meeting that council had asked her to expand upon the notice and send out information to water customers. Since Quartzsite Council as not held a meeting since July 9th, (before the Official Notice of July 10th) the Council as a whole could not directed staff to expand on the notice; however individual council members may have requested the action privately.
Quartzsite only has 446 individually water-metered single family homes, yet has 3,362 master water metered RV/Mobile Home/Deeded Lot Parks.
Residents in RV Parks or Mobile Home Parks usually do not receive separate water bills, as the Park owners are the responsible party. It's obvious the majority of Quartzsite water uses have NOT seen the following document, so Desert Messenger felt responsibility to post both here on this site.
Of particular interest to Quartzsite sewer customers is the chart on page 2, showing existing rates and proposed rates, which is conspicuously missing from the Town's Public Notice (above) posted on their website.
Also note the two pie charts displayed on the following document, are NOT included in the Town's Public Notice (above).
The pie chart displaying the major components of the 2013-14 budget is on the Town's Public Notice, yet is missing from the Notice to water users. Residents are wondering why there is such a difference of information being distributed to the public.
The following is an OPINION COLUMN which appeared in yesterday's Desert Messenger:
by Skip Gallup, guest columnist
Most of you have received a letter from the TOWN OF QUARTZSITE regarding the proposed sewer rate. Sewer rates are complicated – IF that is how you want to present them.
The letter states in the third paragraph, first page, “nor does it ensure that year-round residents are not subsidizing seasonal users.” It continues that, “All utility rate structures should be fair equitable and defendable; unfortunately, the Town’s current rate structure is not.”
My original complaint was not as stated. The complaint was that unoccupied lots must pay full rates and business did not.
In fact under the current rates any private home property owner (year round or seasonal) are supporting the business owners. I have owned my lot in town for over 18 months and have paid the Town over $1000.00 and have not used any water/sewer. The town has been aware of this for years. The Mayor was alarmed at one meeting and talked to me afterwards claiming that this had to change now as he was getting ready for reelection and did not feel he would be elected if this continued. The Mayor and Council have done nothing to get this changed.
Now a proposed rate is given as the answer. If it is fair and equitable, WHY do the Single Family Users pay the highest rate and WHY are they automatically charged sewer usage of 3,000, or 5,000 or 20,000 gallons each month regardless of actual usage? And if you own your own lot and live in an RV, you will be charged as a single family. But if you live in an RV in a Park, you will pay 50% less per year for sewer service, for the same home. WHY the difference?
I agree with the $15.00 charge for EACH customer/lot, perhaps. If you add 446 single family homes and 3362 other lots, just using that total and divide that into the fixed cost of the sewer plant you arrive at just under $15.00 each. However, some businesses in town will be charged $15.00 and others $48.00. How is this reflective to their “fair” share of the fixed cost? Motels are going to be charged at $5.48 per room. Does $5.48 also cover the rest of the motels operations? The fixed cost should be equal for each customer IF each customer uses the same amount of the plant facilities. For example, does an RV use the same amount of the sewer plant that a business with public restrooms?
Each “lot” in town must be accounted for when designing the sewer plant and capacity reserved for each “hook-up”. At least that is what the Town’s sewer expert claims. Using the number of “hookups” and dividing that into the fixed cost gives the “base rate” for sewer/water rates ASSUMING each lot will use the same amount of the sewer plant.
That still leaves the operating costs to handle. That is covered by the gallons of usage. The Town is using the figure that each single family dwelling uses just over 136 gallons of water each day. That is the figure that is claimed to be proper from the ADEQ. But no one will define a single family dwelling. In Quartzsite I would be surprised to find that much usage, and certainly not the average for “single family dwellings” in our town. The ADEQ does allow exceptions, if shown evidence. Why doesn't the town look at their records and determine what is the average for Quartzsite?
What is the cost to produce a gallon of water and process a gallon of sewer in Quartzsite? The town must know this answer in order to follow their own codes. To date no one has been able to answer that question. If you do not know that answer, HOW can you determine the proper rate?
The table on page two shows $20.10 for single family and the table on page three shows $15.00. Why the difference? The $20.10 includes 3000 gallons of sewer, BUT paragraph four on the second page claims commodity charge will be $0 if no water usage occurs. The Town is proposing that the Single Family hook ups will pay for a minimum sewer usage EVEN if they do not use any water or discharge any sewerage. NO OTHER CUSTOMERS have a minimum charge and yet the letter clearly states “fair and equitable” and “$0 if no water is used”.
Confused, I started by saying “Sewer rates are complicated – IF that is how you want to present them”. Perhaps now you will understand that statement.
The council/town determined to hold meetings when the winter visitors were not in town. Some of these “visitors” actually own property and are concerned as year-round residents. The Town could have held meetings last winter, but the choice was made to NOT HOLD MEETINGS.
What we really need is a meeting where all factors can be discussed. Not argued, debated or shouting at each other, just a good honest discussion with answers. I am sure that a solution can be achieved in a spirit of harmony and good will ending with a fair rate for all. This type of meeting is needed, with all the politics left at the door. [Public Hearing is set for Aug. 13 at 6:30pm at Town Hall]