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Phoenix residents pay for future water

PHOENIX - The water isn't pumping yet, but city residents will begin paying for upgrades to Phoenix's water delivery system next month.

Monthly water rates will increase $8.80 over the next year and a half, beginning with a $2.93 increase Jan. 1. Similar step-increases will occur on July 1, 1999, and July 1, 2000.

Households and businesses will be charged $18.78 a month for the first 700 cubic feet of water they use. Any use above that amount will be billed at $1.02 per 100 cubic feet of water. Current household rates are $15.85 for the first 700 cubic feet.

After July 1, 2000, residents will be paying $24.65 a month for their water.

2001 when the upgrades should be complete, the city estimates it will have raised an additional $312,426 over current rates toward a total project cost of close to $4 million.

The funds will be used to repay a $1,104,900 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The city has also received a grant of $904,000 from the department. Another funding package will make up the remainder of the project cost.

Phoenix gets its water from the Medford Water Commission, but needs more storage to keep up with growth and replace some of its delivery system. The city is joining with Talent to build a new water pipeline from Medford.

Known as the TAP (Talent-Ashland-Phoenix) project, a 24-inch line would start south of Medford at South Pacific Highway and Belknap Road and follow the railroad right-of-way through Phoenix. An 18-inch line would continue south to Talent's Bear Creek treatment plant on Suncrest Road. Construction is planned to start next spring.

Phoenix's upgrades will include the city's share of building a larger main, a — million-gallon reservoir on city-owned land east of the freeway and systemwide upgrades of pumping, distribution and water service lines.

As part of the new rate structure approved by the City Council Monday, commercial and industrial users will initially see a rate reduction from their current monthly bill of $19.70. As a condition of the government loan, the city must charge commercial users at the same rate as residential users. In the future, the council will consider tying water rates to the size of the meter.

In addition, the city will begin charging itself for water use. Currently city parks, the cemetery, city hall and the fire department aren't charged for the water they use.

Also at Monday's City Council meeting, council members put off a recommendation on a liquor license for Michael's Courtyard Cafe in the Pear Tree Factory Outlet Stores.