PHOENIX — A long-awaited town hall session focusing on city water rates is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Phoenix High School library.
The water-rate discussion, a hot topic over the past year, has been rescheduled a handful of times in recent months and is expected to require the extra space the high school will provide.
While no decision will be made at the meeting, residents, council members and Water Commission members will have a chance to review a half-dozen potential water-rate structures. The city's water rates have been a bone of contention for citizens ever since being raised in 2011.
Before the last increase, base rates cost $28, which included the first 2,000 gallons, and higher-quantity users paid more.
The increase bumped the base rate to $33.50, which includes the first 5,000 gallons, but after 10,000 gallons higher-volume users pay less than before.
This winter, city officials contracted with the nonprofit Rural Communities Assistance Corp. to review the city water rates.
Some citizens around town have posted signs demanding water-rate fairness, and residents who live in manufactured homes and apartments have voiced concerns about "per unit" costs assessed to multiunit housing complexes.
For example, one apartment complex that recently started city water service is being charged 32 base rates — one for each apartment unit — despite having just four water meters attached.
The Bear Lake Mobile Estates cried foul when new water rates required a base rate per unit, even for vacant units, despite minimal water use at the park.
City Manager Eli Naffah said the objective of the rate study was to ensure water-rate equity for all residents and businesses, determine revenues needed to support the city budget and outline alternative rate structures.
Naffah said the study offers some viable alternatives.
"The council and Water Commission will look at the different rates and decide to either make a change or keep what we currently have," Naffah said.
"If they make a change, I'm not sure when it would take place. It would be up to the Water Commission and the City Council. Whatever it is, we're certainly trying to make things as good for everybody across the board as possible."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.