During their first meeting of the month, Flagstaff City Council covered a variety of topics, including deciding to keep the Wildlife Feeding Ordinance, to the possible dissolution of the city's Community Enrichment Division coupled with the consolidation of Flagstaff's Information Technology and Management Services divisions to changing the name of the Commission on Disability Awareness to the Commission on Inclusion and Adaptive Living, this was another busy night for council.
The item that sparked the most debate among the council members was the possibility of the council taking back issuing authority for reclaimed water permits. Currently, the city's utility director issues the permits.
That office was given the authority by City Council in July 2002 following a February 2001 directive from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) that changed their regulations, requiring many changes. Cities across the state issued reclaimed water general permits designating them as the permittee for reclaimed water.
The ADEQ also began requiring that permittees enter into a contract with those using reclaimed water, known as a reclaimed water agreement. On June 5, 2002, the ADEQ issued Flagstaff its first reclaimed water general permit with the utilities director as the permittee.
Council member Eva Putzova originally brought this issue up in a future agenda items request last November and at least four other council members gave it their approval to advance it as an agenda item in a March 27, 2018 council work session.
The resolution that was brought to the council Tuesday night had two options, with the first being City Council taking back all authority to issue reclaimed water agreements from the utilities director.
The second option would split issuing authority with the utilities director and City Council. The utilities director would take the smaller permits and council would have authority for issuing reclaimed water permits of two million gallons or more.
Putzova shared her support for the first option, while council member Jim McCarthy wanted to look at the second — even suggesting lowering the size of the permits that City Council would be responsible for. McCarthy also suggested lowering contracts that City Council would be responsible for up to 400,000 gallons of reclaimed water.
Council member Scout Overton opposed the ordinance, questioning the need for it, as City Council currently does handle all out-of-city sales of reclaimed water. He saw no current issues with the utilities director issuing reclaimed water contracts.
Putzova countered with the argument that reclaimed water was becoming valuable.
"Reclaimed water is becoming increasingly important water. We are talking about what the future looks like in terms of our system that we have to treat water," said Putzova. "How we are going to integrate reclaimed water into all kinds of other uses, perhaps even cleaning reclaimed water to the level of potable water? I think it's very beneficial for City Council to these agreements and to see how reclaimed water is being used."
Council member Charlie Odegaard countered with the argument that he believed this was more of a political move and argued that the agreements and how reclaimed water was used were already available in the water commissioner's annual report to the council.
"Honestly I think we're trying to make political statements by renewing reclaimed water agreements than truly understanding the water budget and water uses within the community," said Odegaard.
Putzova, McCarthy, Odegaard and even Vice Mayor Jamie Whelan continued to argue over a resolution.
"I would love to say that this isn't political. But because I say this isn't political doesn't make it go away. This is political, it will be political," said Whelan."So I think we need to understand the weight of these decisions and honor them as extremely important decisions not only to our present but to our future."
The resolution will be brought up again for further discussion at future meetings, though Mayor Coral Evans added that in Arizona, all discussions about water eventually turn political.
The parks and recreation and open space departments gave council updates to their programs as well. The issue of locals feeding wildlife also drew lot of debate among residents of the Continental Country Club, with some demanding that an ordinance banning the feeding of wild animals, particularly deer and elk, be removed. They argued that rule wasn't enforces, and the animals had lived in that neighborhood for decades alongside the people there anyway.
Other neighbors argued that the deer were invading their properties, and being drawn in by neighbors who were purposely leaving buckets of corn out for the deer and elk to feed on. Representatives of the Arizona Game and Fish department were present as well, and argued to keep the resolution as feeding wildlife can damage ecosystems, spread diseases among wildlife populations and even cause the animals to attack humans.
City Council was in favor of keeping the ordinance, but only after a full hour of debating between neighbors. It was another busy night for council that left plenty on their agenda for the future as well.