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.