(Posted Jan. 14, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
West Jefferson village council members repealed and replaced legislation they passed in December that included ongoing automatic increases for water and sewer fees.
The new schedule, passed unanimously on Jan. 7, calls for a 5 percent increase in water rates this year and a 2 percent increase in 2020. The sewer rate will go up 10 percent this year, 10 percent in 2020, 5 percent in 2021, 5 percent in 2022, and 2 percent in 2023.
The original legislation called for these same increases, but also included an automatic increase of 2 percent yearly with no end date from 2021 forward for water and the same from 2024 forward for sewer. Those ongoing automatic increases were eliminated in the new schedule.
Earlier in the meeting, former council member Sheila Nelson asked council to consider writing up an explanation of how the water, sewer and tap-in fees work and getting it out to residents. She said residents are discussing the topic on social media and have misunderstandings and questions. She said she has suggested on those forums that residents contact the village for answers.
Jen Warner, council vice president, said the village is transparent about its business and will answer any questions. Steve Johnston, president, said the village is overhauling its website and will be able to post such information there.
Nelson also said that some residents have stated on social media that their water is rust-colored and smells like bleach. Johnston said he has the same problem at his house because he is at the end of a water line.
John Mitchell, director of public service, said low flow in a deadend line, a water main break, hydrant flushing, or inadequate plumbing in or outside a house can cause discoloration and smell. He said residents who are having problems should call his office, (614) 879-8655. “We always investigate,” he said.
Ron Garver, also a former council member, told council he opposes the water and sewer rate increases. He said the village should use its capital improvement funds to pay back loans on plant improvements, instead of raising rates.
He also asked about tap-in fees related to the Kroger Fresh Eats and Sky Ranch development projects proposed on the east side of the village. Johnston said Kroger has pledged $1.76 million for infrastructure improvements. The village is looking at using tap-in fees on new development as a way to pay Kroger back, Johnston said, adding that no agreement has been reached yet. Movement on the project is stalled as officials look at whether to extend infrastructure over or under Darby Creek, he said.
In continuing discussion, Garver questioned the village’s budget and council’s spending decisions in general. Johnston replied that the village government is more structured and disciplined now than it has been during his time in elected office.
“We are working to get the village up to the 21st century, but also want to give residents the best bang for their buck,” Johnston said. “It is not one giant slush fund. We are not spending money like crazy,” he said.