A Gilbert residents committee on Monday turned in signatures for a referendum opposing a town water ordinance — a day before the Town Council plans to reconsider the ordinance.
Mayor Steve Berman and Vice Mayor David Crozier said today’s plan is to repeal and rewrite the ordinance that otherwise would take effect Thursday.
The ordinance makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a $2,500 fine and/or six months in jail to negligently waste water to the extent it damages the roadways or puts pedestrians or cars in danger.
The council is expected to vote on essentially the same ordinance today, but the violation would be a civil penalty with lower fines.
“Nobody can be in favor of just wasting water,” Berman said. “But the penalty certainly could be more severe than it needed to be.”
But the new political action committee, Stop Abusing Law Abiding Taxpayers, turned in 1,142 signatures Monday to place the referendum on the March ballot. To get on the ballot, the group needs 705 qualified signatures.
Committee chairman Fred Phillis said he felt the fact the signatures were turned in meant the ordinance was frozen until voters could vote, if the referendum qualifies for the ballot. Any change of the ordinance today, he said, would violate the rights of voters to decide the issue.
But Town Manager George Pettit said the council could still repeal and replace the ordinance today.
Phillis and the committee’s treasurer, Jan Hibbard, are members of Valley Business Owners, a group that has opposed a variety of measures and has repealed an ordinance requiring all pools in Gilbert to be fenced.
Hibbard said the water ordinance threatens “every citizen in Gilbert that has a sprinkler head. It’s solely up to the discretion of the water police who they cite and who they don’t.”
Pettit, though, said a judge would decide every case, and that residents would be warned before cited.