Foothills area may be more receptive to annexation
A few years ago, residents of the Foothills area wouldn't have even considered being annexed by the city of Yuma, but it's beginning to sound much more appealing as they face a possible 188 percent in their sewer rates from the private provider of the service.
And even if the new rate is based instead on the Arizona Corporation Commission's suggested 156-percent hike, residents of the densely populated unincorporated area east of Yuma would still be paying $55.70 a month to Far West Water and Sewer for sewer services.
In contrast, city of Yuma residents pay $32.48 a month for the service.
The subject of the Foothills either incorporating or seeking annexation into the city has been explored for about a year by the Foothills Fire and Rescue Committee, formed several years ago in an effort to address concerns about fire protection and emergency services.
With Far West's recent request for a big jump in sewer rates, the idea is gaining urgency as witnessed by an overflowing crowd at a meeting by the committee this week to gauge public interest.
It was standing room only in the meeting room at the Foothills Branch Library, with an estimated 75 additional people in the hallway straining to hear the discussion.
“We talked about incorporating and being annexed,” said Bob Tallman, who led the meeting. “There were three sides of the fence: those who want to do nothing, those who want to incorporate and those who want to annex.”
But in the end, there was agreement that people want to continue the discussion — in a bigger location. A followup meeting will be held in the next couple of weeks with the date and location still to be determined.
Wednesday's meeting was attended by Yuma City Administrator Greg Wilkinson, Yuma County Supervisor Russ Clark and Gary August of Rural/Metro Fire and Ambulance. A representative for Far West was invited but did not attend.
Wilkinson said he stressed to the Foothills residents that the city would not force annexation on them — they would have to request it and the city would then consider it.
However, he said, he came away from the meeting with the impression people were “overwhelmingly in favor of annexation. A few years ago they didn't want anything to do with the city. I think there's been a significant change in attitude toward annexation. They have concerns about infrastructure and lack of urban services.”
Tallman noted there's actually been improvement in the committee's initial concerns about fire and emergency services. At one time, the committee had tried to form a fire district but the proposal was turned down by the Yuma County Board of Supervisors.
Last fall, the committee met with Rural/Metro, Tallman said, and fire and emergency services “no longer are a big bone of contention.”
Furthermore, he said, “people are happy with police protection” that is provided by the Yuma County Sheriff's Office.
The Foothills Fire and Rescue Committee has also met with a representative from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns to discuss the pros and cons of incorporating, or forming a legal self-governing body. Benefits would include eligibility for shared revenue and the ability to form special districts to provide for various services, Tallman said.
The catch is that by state law, an area within six miles of an existing city would need that city's OK to incorporate. Yuma's eastern city limit is right at the edge of the area defined as the Foothills.