BULLHEAD CITY — The Bullhead City Council voted Friday to remove the filing fee for arguments to be published in a publicity pamphlet on Proposition 415, the city’s all-mail election in November asking voters for authorization to acquire EPCOR Water Arizona’s local holdings.

Friday afternoon’s meeting, called Thursday for the sole purpose of discussing the $100 fee and limits for ballot initiative and referrendum arguments, lasted only seven minutes. City Manager Toby Cotter explained the rationale for asking the council to waive the fee, then, after brief discussion among council members, they cast a 6-0 vote both to remove the fee and to limit the number of published arguments to 50 in support of Prop 415 and 50 against it.

Council Member Mark Clark was absent. On Tuesday, Clark recused himself from the vote on placing the proposition on the ballot because of his contract with Johnson Utilities, a San Tan Valley company placed under EPCOR management by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Council Member Steve D’Amico participated by phone. The other five council members were present, as were several members of city staff, one media member and one member of the public.

Valid submitted arguments beyond the cap will be posted on the city’s website, along with those that will be included in the informational pamphlet explaining the proposition.

The urgency of the meeting — it was held Friday afternoon, a little more than 25 hours after a meeting notice was posted at the direction of City Clerk Sue Stein on the city’s website, in the council chamber and at city hall — was because the city needs all arguments to be submitted by Aug. 7 for publishing in the pamphlet. The pamphlet will be mailed to the homes of all registered voters within the city limits ahead of the Nov. 5 deadline for mail-in ballots.

Cotter said after the council voted last Tuesday to put Proposition 415 to the voters, that a number of people had contacted him “publically and privately” about the $100 fee.

“Many residents are retired and live on a fixed income or have incomes that would not easily permit this type of expenditure; therefore, paying the $100 fee would be a hardship to participation,” Cotter said. He called it a “landmark issue” for the city.

Because of that, he noted during the meeting, waiving the fee could motivate many people to submit an argument — many more than would have with the $100 fee imposed. If all the arguments were to be published in the printed pamphlet, it greatly would increase the printing and mailing costs for the city; those costs were the reason the fee was imposed in the first place.

He said the city would be “mailing out a Sears catalogue” instead of a more reader-friendly sized booklet.

Friday’s resolution placed a limit of 50 arguments for and 50 arguments against the proposition. Valid arguments will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

The city has budgeted about $25,500 for the special election, including the cost of producing the pamphlet. Cotter said that was part of the 2019-20 budget in the event that a special election was called; had it not been, the money would not have been spent. The city already has a contracted printer for election materials.

Stein outlined some of the guidelines for submitting arguments; the guidelines are posted on the city’s website, www.bullheadcity.com.

She said arguments for or against Prop 415 are limited to 300 words and must be submitted electronically, prepared in a 12-point font; a notarized, signed version must be delivered to the city clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 7. Electronic versions must be sent to Stein at sstein@bullheadcity.com. Electronic versions that are not accompanied by a paper copy will not be submitted for publication.

Each submission can include only one argument, either for or against, and must include the header of either “Argument FOR Proposition 415” or “Argument AGAINST Proposition 415.” All submissions must be signed. Arguments from an organization must include signatures of at least two officers of the organization. Submissions from a political committee must contain the signature of the committee’s chairperson or treasurer.

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