Davies joins Waterville council

Michael Davies is sworn in to Waterville Town Council Position No. 1 by town attorney Steve Smith during the April 1 council meeting. (Provided photo/Lisa Davies)

 

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

The April 1 Waterville Town Council meeting began with a swearing-in ceremony for Michael Davies. Davies was appointed to serve in Position 1 until the Nov. 5 general election. The position was previously held by Jenna Dixon, who resigned in February.

The bulk of the meeting was dedicated to examining the sewer rate policy approved in 2017 by town council. The policy was to include a $5 increase in the base rate, plus a volumetric charge based on average winter water usage.

During the March 18 council meeting, town utility superintendent Marty Ramin had questioned the volumetric charge, saying that during cold spells some people need to keep a stream of water running in order to avoid having their pipes freeze. Ramin was also at the April 1 meeting, and questioned how much extra time it would take staff to calculate average winter use and bill sewer charges accordingly.

According to calculations made by Clerk/Treasurer Marsha Peterson, the volumetric charge would affect only 222 of 503 connections, and of these 222, 157 would be charged only an extra $5 per month.

In the end the consensus among town council members, town staff, Mayor Royal DeVaney and members of the public was that the volumetric charge would not be burdensome to most customers, but logistics of the charges would mean extra work for town staff.

The group discussed the need to raise sewer rates in order to be eligible for funding for a sewer project that is going to need to be done sometime in the near future.

It was agreed that the most reasonable idea was to raise the sewer rates to a flat $45 per month. With current rates at $34.26, this represents a total increase of $10.74 for all residential customers.

The group also agreed that sewer charges for large public entities, which include the school, the courthouse and the NCW District Fair need to be analyzed and billed according to the number of residences that their indoor water use represents. Apartment complexes, Amber Waves boarding home, and the trailer court in town need to be charged by the number of living units.

The group proposed that there be a provision in the ordinance to give discounts to low income seniors and others for whom the increased residential charges may present hardship.

The council authorized town attorney Steve Smith to draft an ordinance reflecting these changes. A hearing will be held during the May 6 regular meeting so members of the public have a chance to weigh in on the terms of the ordinance. The change in sewer rates that was to appear on the April billing has been suspended until the new ordinance can be adopted.

In other matters, a livestock permit for Kasey Mendall for nine chickens was approved.

The council unanimously made a proclamation of April 10 as Arbor Day. The observance is part of Waterville’s designation as Tree City USA, which the town again received for 2018. The Tree City USA program allows cities to hold an observance of Arbor Day on a different date than the proclaimed Arbor Day. Plans for this year’s observance have not yet been made.

Council approved several matters of business involving the Walnut Street Reconstruction Project, including the replacement of water meters, a supplemental agreement with the consultant and added cost for engineering services. The water meters along the stretch of the work area will need to be replaced at the town’s expense with an estimated total cost of $18,965.

Due to the complexity of the project, the cost of engineering services was increased by $79,043. This cost will be covered by the Transportation Improvement Board, which is funding the project. The updated cost estimate for the project was increased from $576,419 to $660,781.

Council voted to surplus the town’s old sewer jetter. The new jetter is now in use and Ramin reported that it has been functioning well.

Link Transit board member Joyce Huber reported that an agreement had been made with the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., to take over the contract for the original five e-buses which have not been functional for Link. The board also went over the annual evaluation for General Manager Richard DeRock. The evaluation included input from senior staff. Huber reported that the results of the evaluation were positive.

Jammie Peterson has been appointed to serve on Waterville’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Spring cleanup day is scheduled for 7 to 9 a.m. April 13 or until containers are full. Household hazardous waste including antifreeze, but excluding paint, will be accepted. Volunteers are needed. Contact town hall at 745-8871 for more information.

The filing dates for the 2019 election are from 8:30 a.m. May 13 to 4:30 p.m. May 17. Town positions that are open for election include mayor and council positions 1, 3, 4 and 5.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 15.