Village Council

Water rate hike approved by Council

At their March 3 meeting, Village Council members unanimously approved a 15 percent rate hike for Village water fees, to be effective April 1. Villagers will feel the hike as an additional $4.20 monthly charge, or $50.40 per year, for an average use of 6,000 gallons.

“This was a red budget until this increase. Now it’s in the black,” Council member Lori Askeland said.

Council approved the first reading of an emergency ordinance at the meeting; it will vote on the final reading of the ordinance at its March 17 meeting.

While the Village had already planned a 3 percent rate hike for April 1, Council members agreed that the increase was not sufficient after reviewing the 2014 water fund projected budget several weeks ago. That review showed that the water fund, which had a deficit of $72,000 last year, had another deficit projected this year even though it has been raising rates incrementally. But the rate hikes apparently haven’t been high enough, Council members agreed, especially given the need for several upcoming water capital projects, including improving fire flow on the south end of town.

The rate increase will provide the water fund an additional $100,000 in revenue yearly, on top of the current $600,000 a year, according to Interim Manager Kent Bristol’s report.

While two villagers at the meeting expressed support for the rate hike to keep the water fund in the black, Heather Wright urged Council to maintain current rates, stating that in the 10 years she and her family have lived in the village, utility costs keep “going up and up and up.” Not raising rates now would “keep the pressure on this issue,” Wright said, so that villagers would be more aware of the need for frugal spending around the upcoming choice of water sourcing.

The overall costs of the various water sourcing options do need to be clear, Askeland said. For instance, while purchasing water from Springfield will require a large upfront cost, ongoing maintenance costs will likely be far less than those involved with building a new plant or upgrading the current plant.

Council member Brian Housh said that Council is looking into transferring some funds from the Village electric fund, which has about a $2 million surplus, to the water fund.

Regarding the ongoing water sourcing discussion, Bristol said the Village is still waiting on information from Springfield regarding how much that city would charge the village for water use. Recently, Village officials realized that the amount of water they had estimated that the Village would purchase from Springfield was too high, so the city needs to redo the math on a smaller amount. Council plans to continue the water sourcing discussion at its March 17 meeting.

In other Village Council March 3 business:
• Council unanimously adopted its annual goals and action steps for 2014. See complete list online at www.yso.com, Council packet for March 3. Askeland suggested that Council review the goals quarterly.

Housh gave an update on upgrading the Village website, which Council has identified as a goal for this year. Specifically, Council felt the website needs to be more user-friendly so that it’s easier for Village staff to use, according to Council President Karen Wintrow.

According to Housh, contracting with eGov Strategies of Indianapolis seems a good solution to the website upgrade, as that firm has been a leader in providing “innovative, user-friendly and easily administered” municipal websites. While the initial cost would be about $13,000 to set up the site, maintenance costs would be about $225 monthly, compared to more than $400 montly now.

The current website was created and adminstered by the local company Servlet. “We’ve been served well,” by that company, Wintrow said, although it is moving part of its operations out of town.

Council tasked Village staff with bringing to its next meeting legislation to proceed with the eGov Strategies solution.

• Council approved a resolution that authorizes the payment of $4,000 to the Greene County engineer for road salt.

• Paul Abendroth of the Community Access Panel gave that group’s annual report. The five-member group runs Channel 5, which averages between 28 and 31 different programs weekly, including government meetings, concerts, plays, interviews, movies and, each weekday morning, the Mills Lawn “Bulldog News.” According to Abendroth, the group posts government meetings on YouTube and hopes to live stream meetings on the Village website later this year.

• Joanne Caputo gave a status report on the National Bronze Sculpture Symposium, the October event that brought four sculptors to town for two weeks. Four sites have been chosen for the event’s sculpture trail, where the artwork created during the symposium will be displayed, perhaps beginning in June. The sculptures will be placed on the wall outside businesses on Dayton Street, the sidewalk area outside the YS Federal Credit Union, at Mills Lawn School and in front of the soon-to-be-built Mills Hotel.

“This was an incredibly successful project,” Wintrow said of the event.

Council’s next meeting will be Monday, March 17, at 7 p.m. at Council chambers.

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