06/28/06 — Pikeville board OKs increases in sewer, water rates for 2006-07

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Pikeville board OKs increases in sewer, water rates for 2006-07

By Turner Walston
Published in News on June 28, 2006 1:54 PM

PIKEVILLE -- The Pikeville Town Board of Commissioners approved a budget for 2006-07 on Tuesday that raises sewer and water rates.

The vote came after a public hearing attended by about 50 residents.

Town Administrator Bob Buchanan said for a household using 4,000 gallons per month, the rate would increase about $100 per year. Residents have been paying $6 per 1,000 gallons, plus a flat $8 fee.

"How can you all consider going up on all of us, when we already pay so much?" asked resident Sherry McAllister, who is also a town employee. "You need to clean up the money that's messed up down there before you attach it to us."

Mrs. McAllister presented the board with a petition signed by 315 residents and businesses opposing the increase.

"These people deserve better than what they are getting," she said.

Buchanan said that the revenue from the rate hike would help pay for the town's new $5 million wastewater treatment plant off Big Daddy's Road. The plant's electrical costs will be about $42,000 annually, Buchanan said. Chemicals for treatment will cost $30,000 a year. To train town employees on plant operations, $25,000 has been set aside.

"That's what it's going to cost to run the plant," Buchanan said. He noted that Pikeville's sewer rate would still be lower than surrounding towns.

Commissioner Johnny Weaver made a motion to accept the budget without raising water and sewer rates. Weaver said he could not vote for the increase "as a matter of principle."

"I'm not satisfied that we're collecting the money we should be collecting," Weaver said.

Commissioner Bruce Thomas disagreed.

"I don't think we can vote on principle. We've got to vote on facts," Thomas said.

Town accountant Gary Pittman said the town does not have a fund balance for water and sewer, and the state would interfere and force rate increases if they were deemed necessary. In light of the information from Pittman, Weaver withdrew the motion.

Commissioner Lyman Galloway moved to accept the budget as presented.

"Nobody on this board likes the budget," he said.

The motion passed unanimously.

In his administrator's report, Buchanan said there are corrections that need to be made to the bill collection process. The town has given some residents breaks on bills without a formal process for dealing with financial hardship cases, he said.

"I can understand, as a human being, why certain steps have been taken because of financial stress that they may have," he said. About $3,000 went uncollected last year, Buchanan said, adding that "We need to have a written procedure of how we're going to do it."

In other business, Kenneth McNeil and Ray Collins of Booth & Associates gave a presentation on plans to improve the town's electrical system.

Total cost of the project would exceed $536,000, they said.

"If we don't find some money somewhere, I don't see how we can do it," Weaver said.

The town received bids on garbage collection contracts from Waste Industries, Waste Management and Onslow Container Service. Each company offered curbside pick-up once weekly. Waste Industries offered the service at a cost of $12.34 per month; Waste Management, $11.98; and Onslow Container Service, $8.49.

Discussion on accepting the bid was tabled until contracts can be studied.

Also during their meeting, the commissioners also accepted a bid to conduct the town's banking business with Heritage Bank.