Clifton council seeking small increase in sewer fee

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Clifton Town Council members review information about a proposed sewer fee increase as Councilor Laura Dorell, far left, poses a question. After Dorell, from left, are Mayor Luis Montoya, Ray Lorenzo, Vice Mayor Barbara Ahmann, and Barbara Reyes. The proposed increase was the main topic of discussion at the Sept. 13 council meeting.

Public hearing will be in November

By Walt Mares

There will be a rise in sewer fees for Clifton residents, but it should not be a shocker. The Clifton Town Council at its Thursday, Sept. 13 regular monthly meeting voted for the proposed increase. That means the current rate for sewer use will increase by $1.40 per month.

However, the council will first hold a public hearing in November. It will give Clifton residents the opportunity to comment on the proposal. If the council adopts the increase after the November hearing it will go into effect within 30 days,

Clifton residents at present pay $30 a month for sewer use. The rate will be $31.40 beginning in January. The increase will increase a resident’s annual bill by $16.80.

So, why the increase?

Town Manager Heather Ruder and Mayor Luis Montoya said that at the current rate being charged, operation of the wastewater (sewer) system barely pays for its self

Another major factor, according to Ruder and Montoya, is that Clifton has one of the lowest, if not the actual lowest, sewer fee in Arizona. Other municipalities in the southeastern Arizona region charge around $35 a month, if not more. It was also revealed that the town has not been eligible for much-needed grants because its sewer fee is so low.

The council emphasized that Clifton’s fee will be increased gradually and not in one felled swoop. Councilors are taking into consideration that many of the town’s residents have low personal incomes, especially the elderly, for whom Social Security is their primary income.  Montoya said there are about 600 household sewer hookups. Of that number, several depend on Social Security.

Following discussion about the sewer fee and other items that were addressed, the council went into executive session and the meeting was over.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Clifton Police Chief Omar Negrete, left, observes as Town Manager Heather Ruder answers an audience member’s question about the Clifton Public Library. It was among key issues at the Sept. 13 Clifton Town Council meeting, There were several positive comments from councilors and the audience regarding the library.

The meeting audience was small. Only eight people attended, but as is often the case, a few hung around in the Town Hall parking lot to exchange comments on what occurred during the meeting. A Clifton resident who had been in the audience told a Gila Herald reporter that he does not care for any kind of “government increase,” especially in taxes. However, he did say that the need for the sewer fee increase was well explained and he “somewhat grudgingly” accepts the need for an increase.   

He said, “I figured off the top of my head that comes to about $16.80 a year. Yeah, I might have to cut back on some things like a few bags of potato chips and a few six-packs of beer but that’s something I can handle. There ain’t much these days you can buy at the store for $16.80.” (sic)

The man said his biggest gripe is the increasing cost of medication.

“Yeah, I’m up there age-wise and got to take some medication that I never thought I’d have to. That sucks but I’m still around. I can still breathe, walk and drive my car.”

He then asked that his name not be used.

“I don’t want to give anybody the impression I’m rolling in dough. I’m like a whole lot of people around here. I live on Social Security.”

He added, “If nothing else I know when I take a (expletive deleted) it’s going down the pipes and into the sewer. My family had an outhouse when I was a kid and that makes me all the more grateful to have running water and a toilet to do my business in.”