The Surprise City Council approved the calling for a November mail-in special election for issuing a franchise extension to EPCOR Water Arizona Inc.
The original 25-year agreement signed in 1995 has expired, and EPCOR is looking for the authority to continue to serve one-third of Surprise residents.
The franchise election will be held Nov. 2 to all qualified voters of Surprise.
The city defines a franchise as a “special privilege conferred by municipalities to public service utility corporations for the use of streets in a manner not available to ordinary citizens of common right. “
EPCOR has operated certain water delivery and wastewater systems throughout Surprise since it was assigned a franchise in July 1995.
It serves many homes north of Bell Road, those west of Loop 303 and Coyote Lakes in the east.
Under the new franchise agreement, EPCOR would be allowed to continue to construct, maintain and operate its potable water delivery and wastewater system.
EPCOR would continue to pay a 2% franchise fee and will be footing the bill for the November special election.
The city takes in roughly $500,000 in fees from EPCOR each year.
“I think this is something that is a benefit to Surprise, personally,” said Councilwoman Aly Cline, whose District 2 is mostly completely served by EPCOR currently.
EPCOR pays the fees quarterly and goes to the general fund.
Mayor Skip Hall was the only person on the council to vote against holding the election because he said he believes EPCOR is not cooperating with the city’s attempt to acquire the Circle City Water Co.
“Me, personally, I am not happy with EPCOR right now,” Mr. Hall said before taking the vote.
Voters gave the city the OK in 2018 to attempt to purchase the small company serving the northern parts of Surprise’s planning area.
The acquisition would grow the city’s allocation of Colorado River water by more than 38%.
“EPCOR has really gone back and forth and I’m really disappointed in them,” Mr. Hall said. “So, it colors the way I look at this right now. The timing is really bad from my standpoint.”
The city must have the ballot language into Maricopa County by Thursday, May 6.
The last day to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 4 for the Tuesday, Nov. 2 special election.
Jason Stone can be reached at email@example.com.