Council discusses raising sewer rates to meet grant threshold

Council discusses raising sewer rates to meet grant

City treasurer Dan Fisher opened the Gillespie city council meeting Monday  with a discussion on the future of the city’s sewer rates.

“Last week, the State had a seminar on all their new grant programs and old ones and what rules are new,” Fisher said. “An old rule they had never really used before that they are going to start using a lot is an analysis of sewer and water rates any time you apply for money for a public infrastructure project involving sewer and water. If you don’t meet a certain threshold, you’re not eligible to apply for funds.

“Our water rates are fine, but we have a lot of sewer work in the years ahead,” Fisher said. “We need to slowly escalate our sewer rates because we’re way below this threshold for grant eligibility and for what other people are paying throughout the community. We need to edge it up over the years so we can avoid sticker shock.

“Our rates are at about half of what they ought to be, and obviously we don’t want to raise rates that much,” Fisher said. “For the long term good of they system we need to raise these numbers.”

Fisher said some time later this year they can come up with a plan for phasing in the new rates, adding that the sewer rates will never cost as little as it does today again.

Nuisance property

Alderman Dave Tucker brought up the issue of an abandoned property at 500 West Henrietta Street. He stated that the building inspector went through it and his report states that the property is a “tear-down” presently held by a bank. Tucker said what the council most likely needed to do is declare the property a public nuisance, using the leverage of potential fines to convince the bank to release the property. City attorney Kevin Polo agreed with this course of action.

“The nuisance abatement procedure, which can essentially result in taking the property away, is the most effective with the bank,” said Polo. “We’ve done ordinance violations on bank-owned properties before and never really gotten anywhere. It’s hard to get a hold of any decision maker at a nationwide bank.”

The council agreed to pursue looking into the best course of action and discuss the property at the next meeting.

Christmas light donation

Mayor John Hicks stated that a local resident has committed $30,000 for Christmas lights to be put up downtown this year.

“There were no strings attached, other than they have to be snowflakes,” Hicks said. He also mentioned that he would be interested in stretching the lights across the street and would talk to landscape designer Larry Knoche of Grow Gillespie to provide a rendering of what it may look like.

A few members of the council expressed skepticism about how well stretching the lights across the street would work and how often they would have to be put back up after a strong wind. The discussion was tabled until further information could be obtained.

Next meeting

The next Gillespie City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Civic Center.