Goodyear City Council water-rate increases

A wave of protests, with many saying rates are already too high, led Goodyear City Council to backstroke on proposed water-rate increases for 2021.

Water is a big thing in Goodyear—after all, it has a subtropical desert climate.

So water dominating the Goodyear City Council’s meeting should not be a complete surprise, though there were a few twists.

After a wave of protests from city residents, Goodyear did a backstroke on its plan to raise water and other utility rates this year.

Also on the water front, Councilman Bill Stipp floated a suggestion to waive resident fees for the new Goodyear Recreation and Aquatic Center.

It was dunked, with no support.

Stipp was the only no vote as council set annual fees of $600 for families and $250 for individual seniors for the $67 million Goodyear Recreation and Aquatics Center, which may be open by Memorial Day.

“I was surprised and disappointed,” Stipp said when asked by the West Valley View how he felt about his idea to waive fees this year being shot down.

He said it seemed like a no-brainer, considering the pandemic and the city’s strong financial position—boosted by $10 million in AZ Cares funding. 

“We have a taxpayer-funded recreation center. It wasn’t private money. This is truly the city’s rec center,” Stipp said.

He estimated waiving the fees would cost the city no more than $100,000.

“My suggestion was let’s not charge a user free for the first six months—let’s let the people who pay for it come in and enjoy it before we start changing them user fees,” he said.

“We certainly have money to cover that. We did receive CARES funds, and through conservative financial practices we have a surplus, so we easily could have covered (waiving the fees). 

“I was trying to give something back to the community at a stressful time.”

While other members of the council raised concerns, Stipp said, “We could put things in place so it’s not overcrowded.”

The Goodyear Recreation and Aquatic Center, a 30-acre park near Desert Edge High School at Estrella Parkway and Goodyear Boulevard North, will have two lighted baseball/softball fields, two lighted multipurpose fields, lighted tennis, basketball, volleyball, pickleball and sand volleyball courts, a group ramada and picnic areas and walking paths.

And it will feature a two-floor, 48,000-square-foot recreation facility with a multipurpose gym and three multipurpose rooms, a fitness area and activity rooms, and an elevated walking and jogging track.

The centerpiece is an aquatic facility with water slides, a lazy river and a splash play area and a competition/lap pool.

Nathan Torres, director of Goodyear Parks and Recreation, said the project “is funded by impact fees, general obligation bonds and general funds.”

Water increases checked

At its Jan. 4 meeting, Goodyear City Council took a look at proposed rate increases, compared to public reaction, and said, “No go.”

“This proves that this council and this staff listens to public comment,” said Mayor Georgia Lord.

The original plan unveiled last month was for “smooth” increases with rate increases in 2021 and the next four years adding up to a 21% increase by 2025, compared to current water, sewer and garbage rates.

On Jan. 25, the Goodyear City Council will consider a revised utility rate plan that will reduce fees for the typical customer in the first year.

The new plan includes a 3% decrease in 2021 for the typical customer and a 17.5% decrease in 2021 for garbage-only customers. 

From 2022-24, the typical customer will see an average annual increase of 4% or approximately $5.25/month. 

The new plan came after many who responded to Goodyear’s request for input insisted “rates are already too high.”

As Stipp put it, “Everybody was fully behind not increasing the rates this year.”

A recent West Valley View article showed Goodyear and Buckeye have some of the highest water rates in the Valley.

“The rates are what they are. We’ve done what we can to keep the rates down,” said Stipp.

Stipp took exception to the West Valley View’s comparison that showed Avondale water is far cheaper than Goodyear’s. 

“Using the comparison of Avondale to Goodyear—that is apples to pineapples,” Stipp said. “Avondale is about 50 square miles. Goodyear is 120 square miles. We’ve got to move water over that distance and it costs money.”

He said the reason Goodyear rates are far higher than cities like Glendale, Peoria and Phoenix is complex but “comes down to the age and the use.”

But he shot down the conception by some huge warehouses and other new businesses coming to Goodyear receive waivers and don’t pay their fair share of utility costs.

He said incentives to new businesses only impact the city general fund: “It does not have anything to do with enterprise (utility) money. When they use water, they’re paying the same rate as anybody else,” Stipp stressed.

“Installation and piping is paid for by the developer (through) impact fees. That’s born by the property owner. … The rate payer is not paying for that,” Stipp said.