Water issue delayed again by City Council
Updated as of Tuesday, November 12, 2019 9:58 PM
The community and the City Council will have at least one more opportunity for public review of the proposed changes to Prescott’s water policy before a decision is made.
After hearing explanations of each of the nine policy changes during its voting session Tuesday, Nov. 12, the council opted to postpone a vote on whether to adopt the new policies.
That unanimous decision came at the end of the council discussion, which began with a push by Councilman Phil Goode to table the matter until after Councilwoman-elect Cathey Rusing is sworn in on Nov. 19.
Goode pointed out that water issues were among the main campaign issues for Rusing, who won a council seat outright during the August primary.
Along with the opportunity to allow Rusing to participate, Goode maintained that the written motions that the council received this past week included new information. A delay would give the council a chance to discuss each of the motions in detail, he said.
But Goode’s initial motion to delay failed by a 3-4 vote, with council members Jim Lamerson and Alexa Scholl joining Goode in voting for it, and Mayor Greg Mengarelli, Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr, and Councilmen Steve Blair and Steve Sischka voting against it.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Clyde Halstead pointed out that this week’s discussion was the 13th public discussion that the council had conducted the policy changes.
In addition, Orr said she had spoken on several radio shows and at several public forums about the changes, and that Mengarelli had written newspaper pieces on the issue.
She added that it should be up to the current sitting council to make the decision. “This council has been sitting and working on this for many, many months,” she said.
In Halstead’s introduction, he said the city proposed the changes this past summer for two main reasons — to make things simpler, and to reflect the reality of the city’s water situation.
The current water policy “had become incredibly burdensome,” Halstead said, noting that the current process of allocating alternative water to new projects had been occupying the time of two city employees. In addition, he said the new policy reflects information that the city has received from its water consultants, who have told officials that the city has enough water to handle future growth without the importation of water from the Paulden-area Big Chino Basin “if you just manage it better.”
Among the questions that came up during Halstead’s explanation was the status of the new Water Resources Management Model that would serve as the city’s tool for tracking actual, estimated and project water demands and supplies.
City Manager Michael Lamar said the city expects to receive the final model from consultant Gary Woodard in December, prompting several council members to suggest that a decision should be delayed until the model is complete.
The council also had questions about the city policy that does not allow water service to properties that are not on the city sewer system.
The proposed policy would have changed that to allowing the council to grant exemptions for properties located 200 feet or more from the sewer system, and in cases where the policy would constitute “extreme hardship.”
Council members maintained that the city should define “extreme hardship,” and also questioned the 200-foot requirement.
After the meeting, Halstead said he would make the requested changes and have the information on the city’s website by today, Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Although the city clerk had received 11 requests from the public to speak at the meeting, the council voted to table without hearing from the public.
Mengarelli said afterward that he decided not to call for public comment because the council opted not to take action on the policy changes.
The date of the council’s discussion on the revised policy changes has yet to be determined, although officials said the matter could be ready for the council’s Nov. 19 meeting. The swearing-in of new council members is scheduled to take place at the end of that meeting.