The city’s first water/sewer rate hikes in five or six years will amount to about an extra $15 per year on most residents’ bills, Phil Harrington, director of capital improvements/water rights, told the council at its Jan. 13 meeting.
Out of 27,000 letters sent out to residents notifying them of the proposed rate hikes, only four households sent back letters protesting the increases. Only one person, former Councilman Allen Payton, spoke against the hikes, arguing that the city isn’t currently using all of the money in the water/sewer funds for water and sewage treatment services.
“The issue to me is the transfers out from the sewer and water funds,” Payton told the council. “Over $1.1 million a year is going from the sewer and water funds over to other funds. It’s not delineated in the budget where it’s transferred to. If it’s going to administrative oversight, I don’t believe you can justify that. I think it’s in violation of state law.
“The other thing I’m asking about is the bonds that will be paid off in 2013 and ’14. That will save $783,000 a year that the funds won’t have to be shelling out on the bond payments. Has that been taken into consideration in your determination of raising this fee?”
Harrington did not respond to the bond question, but said that the transfers out of the water and sewer funds are “moving internally to support the operation and design of the facility.” For example, they may be used to cover the costs to repair the sidewalks, curbs, gutters and streets when new water and sewer lines are put in or old ones are upgraded.
In another council action, Council members Reggie Moore and Mary Rocha continue to be concerned about ensuring that appointments to city commissions will increase the diversity on those commissions. Both voted against Mayor Jim Davis’ nomination of Mike Langford to the Planning Commission, saying they supported Kay Trail instead. But Langford was approved with the votes of the other three council members.
All of the council members supported the appointment of Vincent Manuel to the commission.
The council also agreed unanimously to expand the size of the Economic Development Commission to seven members, creating an additional two seats. At the Dec. 16 meeting, Davis said he’d like to nominate Jim Lanter and James Kyle to those seats.
Davis reiterated his desire at last week’s meeting to make those nominations, despite opposition by Moore and Rocha who said Davis’ choices would not increase the diversity that would be provided by another applicant, whom they did not name. The nominations will be made at a future meeting.