4/25/2013 8:08:00 AM Prescott joins Prescott Valley in seeking water group dues cut, otherwise they'll quit
PRESCOTT - The Prescott City Council on Tuesday joined the Prescott Valley Council in telling the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee they will quit the water group if it doesn't cut their annual dues in half for at least a year.
The letters say the water group has plenty of money to complete its core work next year.
Prescott Council members Charlie Arnold and Chris Kuknyo voted against sending the letter.
"I think it's important that we have a forum where everyone can talk and work together," Kuknyo said. "We don't want to lose those lines of communication."
Arnold said he didn't want the council to make a decision about whether to leave the water group until the group responded to the city's request cut its dues to about $21,000.
"I'm not willing today to pull the plug on the Water Advisory Committee without more information and more dialog happening," Arnold said.
Prescott Council Member Steve Blair, who also co-chairs the Water Advisory Committee, said Prescott has different water issues than the Verde Valley members of the water committee.
Prescott and Prescott Valley now are involved in their own studies and Upper Verde groundwater computer modeling plans with the Phoenix-based Salt River Project, Blair added.
"That's more important...to Yavapai County and the Upper Verde than any of these water groups could possibly be," Blair said.
Unlike the Water Advisory Committee meetings, those meetings with SRP are closed to the public.
Blair also said the city belongs to several water groups.
"We're spending literally millions of dollars to do duplicate studies," Blair said. When asked for examples after the meeting, Blair said he meant that could happen in the future.
Later in the meeting, Blair said the county water committee has done important work, such as the ongoing effort with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to come up with a long-term plan to meet future water needs in the Central Yavapai Highlands.
"I think it's important to stay in the Water Advisory Committee," Blair said.
"The regional cooperative effort...has helped bolster science in the area," Prescott Water Resources Manager Leslie Graser added.
But the water group's consensus process drags out decision-making in the group, Graser said.
The water group spent more than a decade working with the U.S. Geological Survey on studies and gathering data to produce a computer model of the Verde Watershed. But Prescott and PV don't want to use the model to see how population growth in this region might affect surface waters, saying the model isn't good enough.
However, their dues cuts would lower the chances of any more refinement of the model next year.
After soul searching during a day-long retreat early this year, water committee members agreed to keep the committee alive but split into two subgroups for the coming year. The two sides of the mountain might get together only twice a year instead of monthly.
Several Prescott Council members said Tuesday they'd like to modify the Water Advisory Committee membership agreement, but didn't explain what they'd like to change.
Council Member Jim Lamerson said it's not fair that Prescott and PV have to pay more dues than the other members because their populations are larger, yet each municipality gets only one vote.
Blair later said he'd like to see the water group operate on a majority vote instead of consensus.
The council spent a lot of time Tuesday trying to figure out the semantics of the water committee bylaws requirements for leaving the committee.
They have to notify the water committee of any plan to quit by April 30; otherwise they have to wait a year.
Once they give notice, it's up to the other water committee members to decide whether Prescott and PV can stay with the water group, Prescott City Attorney Jon Paladini said.
The county supervisors might not be in on that decision, since they just decided to bow out as members of the water committee for a year.