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2020 Ag Show draw more than 300

WILLCOX — Moving forward in business, Willcox and the surrounding area gathered for the annual Southeastern Arizona Farm and Ranch Trade Show.

Located at the Willcox Community Center Park, the show highlighted farming technology, ranching business and focused on agriculture trends. There were farming and ranching demonstrations throughout the morning.

Keynote speaker Chelsea McGuire, director of government relations for Arizona Farm Bureau, addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to talk about current legislation; we are really going to have to talk about water. Because there’s a lot of that going on, too, and nobody knows better than the folks in this room how water is a big issue in our state,McGuire said.

“There are a lot of bills that we’re really excited about. There’s a bill that’s trying to make it that if we’re conserving surface water we’re not just forfighting that surface water. It would help a producer file a notice of conservation and then not be at risk of forfeiture if they’re implementing the water saving technologies.

“There’s a bill that would mean if a junior water user is going to be turned off by a senior, there has to be some proof that it does some good to the senior. There has to be some kind of connection there that would say if I’m going to turn your water off there’s gonna be a reason for me to do that. I have to prove that there’s some beneficial water coming to me. We are hoping that that helps several of our water users as well.”

According to one of the event organizers, Kayla Shores, there were close to 230 meal tickets sold and more than 300 attendees at the event.

Rate study to reveal cost of system maintenance

WILLCOX — The future of utility rates is under review.

The City of Willcox is putting its natural gas system through a rate study and, at the January City Council meeting, City Manager Caleb Blaschke told the council that the study could influence rates.

Blascke told the Range News that the rate study is being conducted in the effort to assess the system needs in terms of replacement and maintenance. Also, it will give the city a measurement as to how much the utility rates may have to increase to bring the system up to a higher performing standard.

Blaschke told the Range News that the city’s rates are half as much as the county’s rates. Recently Benson’s rates had to be upped by 50 percent, and Huachuca City’s rates had to increase 82 percent.

“It’s in the city’s interest to maintain our systems so they are safe and reliable while at the same time only charging our residents for cost recovery. We’re not in it to make money; we’re in it to maintain a safe system that is also reliable,” Blaschke said. “That’s the bottom line — we’re just trying to maintain our system. We’re not trying to make money. It’s not the role of the utility system to make money.”

In the past the city has declined to raise rates, leaving the system without needed updates and repairs. Blaschke told the Range News that through the study, the city will determine what will be less expensive for Willcox citizens. If maintenance and updating the system at a lesser cost to city dwellers requires selling the system, Blaschke said the city will consider selling it to the Southwest Gas Company.

The results of the rate study will not be available for review for roughly two to three months.

In response to the possibility of raising the utility rates, City Councilwoman Rachel Garza expressed her concern for low-income families within the community. She said she hoped the city could come up with a plan to assist those who may struggle with any increase.