2011-03-12 / News

Water, sewer rate hikes approved

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT – Water and sewer rates will be going up April 1 after council members approved the increases by a 4-1 vote Tuesday night. Council member Jim Wright voted “no.”

Council members heard the first reading of the ordinance to increase rates in January. Though there were reports of some residents grumbling about the rate hike, no one came to the February or March council meetings to formally complain.

The basic in-town rate for 3,000 gallons per month will increase from $18.65 to $23.65. The charge for each additional 1,000 gallons per month moves from $2.34 to $3.00. Rates for outof town customers – but not the Village of Buckeye Lake which is covered by a specific contract – will increase from $29.65 per month for the first 2,000 gallons to $36.65. Each additional 1,000 gallons per month goes from $3.00 to $4.50.

With the increase, an in-town customer using an average of 4,500 gallons per month will pay $28.15 per month compared to $47.90 per month for an out-oftown customer using the same amount of water.

Sewer rates are also increasing. The basic sewer rate for in-town customers will move from $22.44 per month for the first 2,000 gallons of water usage to $23.56 per month. Each additional 1,000 gallons used per month will increase from $7.40 to $7.77. Again out-of-town customers will be paying more. The basic rate goes from $25.41 per month to $26.68 per month. Each additional 1,000 gallons used per month moves from $7.62 to $8.00.

The combined water/sewer rate for an in-town customer using 4,500 gallons per month will be $71.14, up from $63.10; for an out-of-town customer the new rate will be $94.58 per month, up from $81.61.

In other business Tuesday night, council members continued to discuss how to reduce the continuing deficits from the operation of the village swimming pool. Projected revenue for 2010 was $38,531, but only $31,276 was realized. Expenses totaled $ 47,851, creating a $ 16,575 deficit. That was more than twice the $7,154 deficit in 2009 which was a significant improvement over 2008 when the cool summer weather caused significant drops in attendance.

The pool deficit is a regular topic at the monthly council meetings and council’s Finance Committee discussed it for nearly two hours on Feb. 22. No one expects the pool to make money or break even, but several members are insisting that the deficit be significantly reduced.

The Finance Committee discussion lead to some tentative changes including eliminating the concession stand worker by having lifeguards sell concessions during breaks, reducing both the variety and the purchase cost for concession items, eliminating early purchase discounts for memberships, rounding up membership fees and charging the swim team for their use of the pool. One suggestion was to require that each swim team member – there were 44 members last year – have an individual membership. Most team members live outside the village and don’t have a membership. That could have raised close to $4,000 from the swim team, triggering a quick backlash from swim team leaders and some parents.

Baltimore resident and swim team member parent Maryann Henderson attended Tuesday night’s meeting. “I don’t think you can rely on a 36-member swim team to a make up your deficit,” she told council members. The team started four years ago with 19 kids and won its league championship last summer even though only five members swim year round. The team uses the pool free of charge. Village officials hoped the meets would significantly increase concession sales, but that hasn’t materialized.

Henderson emphasized that the team couldn’t afford to pay $100 a member for use of the pool. “Maybe we can offer $1,000,” she said. The Baltimore swim team pays $750 for use of the pool, Henderson said. The team also pays for a lifeguard during practice. The Millersport team doesn’t need a pool lifeguard because it has several certified lifeguards.

“It has to be a reasonable fee or we can’t absorb it,” Henderson added. She said the team and parents have offered to do maintenance work at the pool for the last four years, but claimed their offers have been routinely rejected.

“I think it is unreasonable to charge a giant fee when we didn’t charge them anything in the past,” council member Chuck Mesko said. “I don’t think we should charge an individual fee.” He suggested accepting offers to contribute labor for pool projects to offset the fee. A parent couple with the required certifications have offered to serve as assistant managers

“We have to have a comprehensive approach to this, ” council member Shane Wise added. Mesko suggested a $1,000 fee from the team plus another $1,000 in sweat equity built at the rate of $10 per hour.

“There is a lot of theft in the concession stand,” Henderson added. Her blunt comments about the pool and how it compared to neighboring pools were starting to upset some council members, particularly council president Dave Levacy. Henderson had asked for an answer that evening on the fee, but Levacy said the issue had to go back to the Finance Committee for more discussion. A finance meeting was set for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 14, in the municipal building.

In his report, Fire Chief Bill Yates reported that the department had made 122 EMS and 29 fire runs since the first of the year. “We average about 1,000 runs a year,” he added.

His analysis of the runs to date show that alarms are highest at 10 a.m. and between 5 to 7 p.m. Monday is the busiest day of the week, with Wednesdays and Fridays the slowest days. He was pleased to report that 100 percent of the EMS runs were “advanced life support” which means a paramedic was on every run.

Police Chief John Shirk said the department was making progress on building its new home in the former water treatment building on the east side of the municipal building parking lot. He thanked Yates, Tom Boso and Gilbert Arnold for their help with the work on the new police office. Shirk thanked an unidentified Glenford resident for donating a furnace for the new office. He also thanked Lowe’s in Heath for donating 400 cinder blocks, Carr Supply in Lancaster for plumbing and HVAC supplies and Flooring Studio in Millersport for flooring. “We really appreciate your help,” he added.

Shirk said the new to the village used police cruiser is now on the road. Cruisers will be rotated to avoid excessive wear. “Kenny Munday (of Kenny’s Collision) has really stepped up on vehicle maintenance,” Shirk said. The cruiser totaled after striking a deer was repurchased for $1,000 for the parts. That proved to be a timely purchase as the transmission unexpectedly failed on another cruiser. Shirk said Munday swapped out the transmissions for about half the cost to install one transmission. “He’s really helping us out.”

Shirk said he is working on formal mutual aid agreements with the Village of Baltimore and ODNR park officers. That means those officers could respond to Millersport calls and vice versa. Shirk is trying to secure a state grant to fund a marine patrol. “If we don’t get the money, it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Street supervisor Gilbert Arnold said he is getting some prices on street resurfacing and for construction of a salt barn. He said Park and Terrace streets along with Laker Drive are the next streets due for resurfacing. Unfortunately, Laker Drive could eat all and more of his resurfacing budget.

When school is in session, Laker Drive is the busiest street in town, Arnold said. There is no base for the street and the school district needs to do something about all the storm water running off school property onto or under the roadway, he added. “We need a base and to keep the water off it,” Arnold said. “It is a bad road.”

Mayor Dean Severance said he would discuss seeking a Ohio Public Works Commission grant with the village’s outside engineering firm. Village officials will also talk with the school superintendent and school board about managing their stormwater to keep it from destroying the roadway.

Council members heard the second reading of an ordinance to increase dock fees by $50 for the season for the 42 village-owned docks along the canal. The dock rental fee for village residents would increase from $250 to $300, while non-residents would pay $400 a season if residents don’t claim all the spots. Wright objected to the increase, noting that the village finally finished construction of the small docks last year. He thought fees should be held firm for one more year so long-time renters could enjoy the new docks without paying a higher fee. “$300 is a heck of a deal,” Severance told Wright. Council members waived the three reading rule and then adopted the dock fee ordinance by a 4-1 vote with Wright dissenting.

Council members took no action on the new pool charges, preferring to wait for next Monday’s Finance Committee meeting at 7 p.m.

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