The Marana Town Council voted unanimously last week to approve a rate increase for wastewater services. The rates were first established in September of 2008, when the battle with Pima County began over who should control the Luckett Road Wastewater Treatment Facility.

With Marana officially gaining control of the facility on Jan. 3, residents saw a slight decrease on their monthly bills in January and February. This is because they have been paying rates from Marana’s 2008 proposal, when the town originally planned on seizing control.

“Since 2008, the town has decided on holding off on making any adjustments to that rate until the acquisition of the wastewater system was completed,” said Rodney Campbell, the Marana Town spokesman.

To compensate for the rising cost of wastewater operations since 2008, and to match Pima County’s current rates, residents will see a slight increase, starting in April.

According to Dan Jackson, Marana’s wastewater rate consultant, the increase will not exceed the amount currently charged by Pima County.

Each month, Pima County charges $11.14 in service fees, which will remain the same under Marana’s new rate structure. Pima County charges $2.91 per 100 cubic feet used, for an average monthly bill of $30.61. Marana will charge per thousand gallons, but assuming the same monthly volumetric average per household (about 5,000 gallons), the monthly bill also amounts to $30.61.

North Marana residents will see an increase in July, when the monthly service fee jumps to $11.86, which matches an increase planned by Pima County at the same time.

The volumetric charge will also increase in July. Assuming 5,000 gallons used, a monthly bill would rise from $30.61 to $33.26.

“Once again, this coincides with the scheduled rate adjustment that Pima plans on putting into affect on July 1, so that your rate will continue to be the same as Pima’s in fiscal year 2013,” said Jackson.

Projections for 2014 estimate the average household bill will be about $36.18 monthly.

“Our rate plan, and Pima’s rate plan take into account the fact that rates today are not going to be the same as rates tomorrow,” said Jackson.

Jackson said current wastewater rates could be maintained or decreased if Marana continues to grow by 150 permits in the plant’s service area each year.

Mayor Ed Honea estimated Marana’s growth to be about 250-300 permits per year, which Jackson said could help lower rates even more due to the acquisition of more impact fees.

“You’re not only getting more rate revenue, you’re also getting impact fee revenue, and that’s an awful lot of revenue,” he said. “You have a $4,300 impact fee. If you get 250 accounts a year, that’s about $1 million in impact fee revenue.”

Councilman Herb Kai said he is concerned many of the permits seen in Marana each year come from locations outside the facility’s service area, such as Dove Mountain.

Jackson recommended the Town conduct a research study to determine if the 150 permits is a realistic number to maintain.  

The new rate structure looks to simplify Pima County’s commercial fee structure by charging a single, flat fee for businesses, despite its classification.  

Jackson said doing so will save some businesses, like bakeries, a considerable amount of money each month. Campbell said the flat rate is beneficial for all Marana businesses.

“With this flat rate, no business will be paying more than they already do, and several will be paying significantly less,” he said.

Jackson said he is unsure about the origination of Pima County’s claim that Marana’s wastewater bills would rise dramatically, and said Marana’s wastewater rates are slightly less expensive than average in Arizona.    

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