Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 city council, after a month’s vacation (sort of), will convene by holding its first workshop meeting. There are 3 agenda items: presentation of the proposed Fiscal Year 2017-18 federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocations; update of the city’s website; and further discussion of the proposal to raise water/sewer and sanitation rates.

So far CDBG federal funds remain basically intact with the city’s total entitlement at $2,270,348.00. With a new administration in place we will have to wait to see what new federal policies are implemented that will affect allocations in the future. We are moving into uncharted territory. CDBG funds cannot be used throughout the entire city but rather in specific areas recognized as slum and blighted. Most of this area is located in zip code 85301 (not all of this zip code has this designation) and generally includes downtown Glendale.

There was one area that received no funding this year and I believe should have. That is the City of Glendale’s Neighborhood Services in the area of Neighborhood Preservation and Code Compliance. The request was for $94,945.00. Yet it received nothing. This funding can be used to board up vacant properties, distribute ‘roll-offs’ to neighborhoods and for its ‘clean and lien’ program. The city should be more aggressive in these areas as all benefit neighborhood preservation. Boarding up properties and cleaning up vacant properties can be expensive. Even though a property has a lien placed upon it, it may be years before the lien is paid and in the meantime the city has fronted the cost. “Roll-offs’ are those very large garbage bins. They are frequently used by neighborhoods when they call for a general clean-up. They are expensive and the charge for one is somewhere in the $500 range. Many neighborhoods, especially those older neighborhoods without an HOA, simply cannot afford the cost of a ‘roll-off.’ In an effort to maintain these neighborhoods it just makes sense to offer them, free-of-charge, to neighborhoods willing to self-clean.

Community Revitalization has a set aside of $654,050.00. It would make sense to allocate $100,000 of that amount to Neighborhood Preservation.

The second agenda item is that of updating the city’s website. Goodness knows it needs it desperately but before council gives direction to upgrade, I sure would like to know what the cost of such an effort will be. The request before council will be to approve the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) and then to eventually approve a contract for web hosting for the city. I think a cap of fund expenditure should be provided within the RFP. Without that, the sky is the limit for all bidders.

 It also raises a question that I continue to ask. What is the purpose and mission of the city’s Information Technology (IT) Department? The city is about to embark upon the implementation of a new citywide operating system called Munis. As part of this contract, the city will be paying nearly a million dollars a year for support of this system. If council decides to award a contract for hosting its website that becomes another major area that IT will not have to support. It appears as if IT is becoming no more than a glorified support system for all of the city’s equipment such as PCs. As the city moves into cloud computing, IT will no longer have to support servers for the city’s operating systems. IT receives a substantial allocation each fiscal year. It’s time to ask what are we paying for?

The last agenda item is further discussion about water/sewer and sanitation rate increases. A little history is in order. For approximately 8 years there have been no rate increases due to the Great Recession. No one felt it was appropriate to raise rates during that period. The economy is now rebounding and it is time to adjust rates. In addition, during those 8 years, the cost of materials and equipment has risen as well as the fact that employees in these departments are seeing their first pay increases in many years. So, a case can be made that the rates should be reviewed.

I have several major concerns that I expect to have addressed.  One is the need for a less dramatic initial rate increase. Rate increases need to be phased in and gradual. Let me give you a real example. My June billing was in the amount of $100.44 for 21,000 gallons broken down as follows:

  • Water                               $76.92
  • Sanitation & Recycling         16.30
  • AZ Water Quality Tax            0.14
  • Taxes                                  7.08                 

With a proposed 7.5% increase in water in the first year, that $76.92 jumps to $82.69; and with a proposed 10% increase in water the first year $76.92 becomes $84.61. The $16.30 for sanitation could increase in the first year by 17% to $19.05 or 25% to $20.50.

Over the next 5 years a water bill could increase by 29% adding approximately $27.72 to the average single family billing.  The sanitation bill could increase by 52% or approximately $8.50.

That does not include an increase in the AZ Water Quality Tax or taxes on each bill.

These increases are dramatic and mandate that city council look at the proposed projects that rather than being committed to at one time are rather phased in allowing a more gradual approach to the proposed rate increases.

City council has historically adopted a tiered rate approach to water. Those who use the minimal amount per month would see the smallest increase. Those who consume the greatest amount of water per month see the largest rate increase. This approach was designed to uphold the philosophy of water conservation and to recognize that minimal water users are often seniors and retired on fixed incomes. The proposal as presented does not take this strategy into account.

There is plenty of time for further discussion. The citizen comments are very important to this discussion. The city is holding a series of public meeting for citizens:

Open House Public Input Meetings

  • Wednesday, July 26, 2017 Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center 6-8 p.m. 11550 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, AZ 85307
  • Thursday, August 3, 2017 Foothills Recreation and Aquatic Center 6-8 p.m. 5600 W. Union Hills Dr., Glendale, AZ 85308
  • Saturday, August 12, 2017 Glendale City Hall – Basement Level 10 a.m.-12 noon 5850 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301
  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 Glendale Adult Center 6-8 p.m. 5970 W. Brown St., Glendale, AZ 85302

Lastly, citizen commentary from participants on the newly established Utilities Commission, seem to indicate that there was never a discussion of the central questions: do we need rate increases? and how can we mitigate the increases? From what I have heard the commission discussion began with these are the projects we must do and do you prefer a rate increase based on Option 1 or Option 2?

The city council workshop discussion of these agenda items can be seen on Channel 11 if you have Cox cable or live on the city’s website under Cable Channel 11 tabs.  It’s an important discussion.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               


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