BONNE TERRE – The Bonne Terre City Council will hold off approving their fiscal 2013 budget until members have a chance to look over it more.
When the budget came up for a vote Monday night during the regular monthly meeting, Councilman Shawn Kay asked the council to postpone approval until a special session since he just got the budget proposal on Friday and a memorandum regarding proposed water and sewer rate increases Monday.
Councilwoman Alicia Whitwell said she agreed they should wait. A special session to approve the budget for the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 24.
In the memo and during the council meeting, City Administrator Larry Barton recommended a 5.5 percent increase on sewer rates per year over the next 10 years and a 10 percent increase on water rates per year over the next three years due to ongoing costs of maintenance, and state and federal mandates and keeping up with their debt service.
Later, Barton explained that Carl Brown Consulting had conducted a sewer rate analysis years ago and these were rates he had proposed. The rate analysis was performed in 2006 as a requirement of a state revolving loan. Barton indicated the city is behind on keeping up with those proposed rates.
City officials recognized the rate increase wouldn’t begin to address the radionuclide problem the government is now making them and other local cities address. Barton said they will be looking at a bond issue or some other way of financing the radionuclide issue.
He said with the rate increases, the minimum water rate would increase from $5.80 to $6.38 while the minimum sewer rate would increase from $12.55 to $13.24. The rate is based on the amount of water used.
Kay asked if Barton knew how much water the average household uses. Barton said he did not know but the average utility bill for water, sewer and trash is between $70 and $72.
Elders said that by the end of 10 years, that average utility bill would be well over $100. He said the proposed property tax issue that failed would have been a whole lot milder on residents and would have absorbed some of the cost.
Elders predicted that the government would have to come in some day and set the rates because they will run out of funding options.
Also during the meeting, the council re-established a policy for utility services offered outside the city limits.
Under this policy, the city will no longer offer water, sewer and trash collection outside the city limits except to those already getting those services. If property changes ownership, the existing water and sewer services may remain but trash will not be offered.
It states any sewer services outside the city limits not being used for whatever reason shall not be re-connected to the city. Any sewer that requires a pumping station must be approved by DNR and the city code enforcement officer.
Barton said there was a mobile home park outside the city limits that had been a problem because they weren’t paying their bill. He also said a foreclosed home in Lakewood had caused a problem.
When asked by Kay, Barton said the ordinance would not affect Randy Hubbard who came before the council last month about out-of-city property he was buying.
A proposed ordinance to put an end to spot zoning was a debated topic. After much discussion, the council, with Elders abstaining, voted not to take up the ordinance dealing with spot zoning. Barton had suggested the ordinance as a way of keeping spot zoning from becoming a problem.
During discussion, Barton attempted to explain the difference between rezoning and spot zoning and that the next item on the agenda, the 800 Cherry Street storage units, was not a spot zoning issue because of the zoning district it was in. He told the council that the owner was asking for a rezone request from R2 to C2 to match the zoning that it is currently in.
The council approved the rezone of those storage units with Elders again abstaining from the vote.
Next the council discussed an ordinance dealing with water adjustments – an ordinance that would have gone into effect immediately after passage.
Whitwell, who said she has had issues with her own water and sewer bills, said she did not like the proposed change.
When Elders asked if the ordinance dealt with the proposed rate increases they discussed earlier in the meeting, another council member offered him a copy of his proposed ordinance. He started to make a motion to approve the bill until Whitwell told him it stopped or limited adjustments.
The proposed ordinance allowed adjustments on sewer bills if the problem was validated by a plumber receipt, material receipt or other documentation; if the leak was a result of water usage measured in gallons of at least 50 percent above the previous bill; and if the leak that was result or a break or rupture in a service line connected between the water meter and the end appliance or fixture.
The ordinance would have limited adjustments to no more than two such adjustments in a 12-month period. A one-time sewer adjustment for filling swimming pools would have still been allowed.
A member of the audience, Ken Wilke, asked how it would affect him if turned out he did have a leak or another issue. He said while they were away on vacation, their bill increased from the normal $50 to $250. He said he paid it but he believes a new meter is being installed.
Becoming clearly frustrated, Barton asked the council to strike the ordinance and take it up for consideration some time later. Before saying that, he said it seemed the council thought residents should pay whatever they wanted to pay.
In other matters, the council opened bids to consider privatizing trash service. The council did not award any bids or decide to privatize.
Barton said the city has the right to refuse any and all bids especially if the city and its residents aren’t benefiting. He will be reviewing the bids and presenting summaries and recommendations to the council.
Hottle opened bids from Freedom Waste LLC, IESI, Republic Services, Thomure Disposal, and Waste Management. Each submitted proposals of what a city resident would pay each year for a period of five years.
The extent of each trash service offered varied a little and each proposal differed slightly. Freedom Waste LLC and Thomure Disposal seemed to have the lowest bids while Republic had the highest.
During his city administrator report, Barton said they’ve only done a couple of asphalt projects this year. He said one was a block on Plum that the city did themselves. He said they will look at spot paving on North Division and paving about 500 feet on Grove from Lake to Cottage.
The council also opened bids from accounting firms for audit services. No decision was made.
During public comments, Dean Moak told the council about the First Baptist Church’s fall festival. He also told them about a hole on East School Street.
Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.