By Naomi Hatch —
What was expected to be a simple housekeeping item on the agenda of the Sept. 26 Snowflake Town Council meeting, approval of mandated payment of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) municipal fee, hit a sore spot with Mayor Kelly Willis.
Town Engineer Rob Emmett requested a payment of $6,964.13 to ADWR be approved to cover a municipal fee enacted at the last legislative session to assess and collect fees from each municipality in the state.
Emmett explained that the fee will provide a dedicated funding stream to ADWR, with the collected monies being deposited in the Water Resources Fund, which is used to meet statutory responsibilities, including the functions relating to evaluation of surface water supplies, water rights, groundwater monitoring, active management areas, underground water storage, dam safety, flood control and floodplain management. He noted that prior to the legislature’s action, these functions were funded through the state’s general fund, but because of the state’s need to reconcile long-term general fund expenditures, the legislature shifted this funding burden to local municipalities.
“ADWR does not build; why do they need $7 million?” asked Mayor Willis.
“If this council said we’re not paying it, what would they do, can we do it? No!” he said. “I’m just upset about it because I’m getting tired of the big bully.
“There’s a lot of difference between Snowflake, Taylor and Holbrook than there is in Phoenix; and they’re absolutely killing us,” said the mayor.
He then asked if Emmett knew where District 5 legislators stood on this issue. The engineer said he did not.
“Municipalities are getting hit and hit and hit and hit. Pretty soon we’re going to dry up and blow away if we don’t start sticking up for your rights,” said Mayor Willis.
Emmett pointed out that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality raised its fee from $75 to $750 to provide the same service, and now the towns will have to pay a fee for an annual permit.
“To me they’re saying we’re going to take it from you, so they can live and we can die,” said the mayor.
Councilman Tom Poscharsky said he felt the town should look at its water and sewer rates, and look at a potential increase.
In the end a motion to approve payment of the $6,964.13 ADWR municipal fee passed in a 6-1 vote, with the mayor voting against it.
“I’m opposing it just for the heck of it,” he said. “We love our people and we say we’re going to take care of you, and we can’t do anything.”