By Sherry Twamley, Cottonwood Resident
(July 30, 2017)
Just having a drinking water account with Cottonwood Municipal Water Utility is risky business. It can land you millions of dollars in gambling debts from the city’s gambling problem – like the city’s $14-15 million boondoggle Riverfront Wastewater Reclamation Plant, that is landed the city’s 9,000 water ratepayers in serious debt from the city’s gambling investments. What Cottonwood does not want people to know is that if you are a city water utility customer, that city leaders have already sucked millions out of the city’s water utility ratepayers’ credit and cash reserves to buy and build speculative real estate investments and infrastructure – by issuing millions of dollars of bonds without an election to condemn and buy six private water companies and to build boondoggle and underwater infrastructure, like the Cottonwood Recreation Center that in FY2016, lost an estimated $1.7 million in operating costs plus its $1.5 bond debt payment. That is just one of the many imprudent taxpayers’ investments the former Mayor Diane Joens and her council made that are swimming in red ink.
Because Cottonwood has a serious gambling addiction city leaders are racking up millions of taxpayers’ debt every day for risky schemes. The city of Cottonwood is a “high roller” taking astronomical risks with taxpayers’ and water utility ratepayers’ money, using its cash reserves and credit to take on enormous debts. But it’s a house that always wins, and taxpayers and the city’s water utility bill payers always lose. That is how it has been for the last twelve years, as the mayor and council members of Cottonwood cashed out leaving taxpayers and city water utility bill payers swimming in millions of dollars of debt and red ink. In Cottonwood taxpayers and city water utility customers are forced to front the cash and credit cards to fund the city’s gambling addiction and remain on the hook for all the city’s losses. City leaders think by borrowing more than 100 per cent of the project cost at very low rates over long periods they can’t go wrong, because after all, it’s “free taxpayers’ money” and they will never have to repay one dime of the debts they incur. The disturbing fact is, a significant part of Cottonwood’s gambling revenues came from the city’s water ratepayers’ surcharge money.
Although the Cottonwood Municipal Water Utility has the highest base rate in Arizona for zero to 1,000 gals. of water, the city is already planning another water rate increase because they are millions upside down on their Riverfront Water Reclamation Plant under construction on the banks of the Verde River in a flood plain, that went from an $8 million budget to an estimated $14-15 million taxpayers’ expenditure. But the city is broke.
In fiscal year 2016 according to the Arizona Treasurer’s Office Bonded Indebtedness Report, Cottonwood had $58 million in long term bond and lease debts, and $21.5 million in unfunded pension debt (cottonwoodaz.gov 2016 CAFR).