SALYERSVILLE – The Salyersville City Council met in regular session on Monday, August 21, discussing the water rates and setting the tax rates for the city.
David Gardner with the Salyersville Water Works Commission, explained that they will be taking a 3 percent raise to water and sewer rates in order to keep up with the cost of living and continue providing services to the community.
He reiterated that five years ago (prior to the current commission and mayor) the water commission had roughly $200,000 in outstanding debts, and were facing possible termination of electricity services. The county offered to loan the city $50,000 to help pay the electric bill, and at that point in time, SWW had not had a rate increase in over 10 years. It was determined that they needed to increase their rates 20 to 25 percent just for the system to sustain itself, so the commission decided to raise the rates 10 percent the first year, 10 percent the second year and 3 percent the third year, then 3 percent annually to keep the rates in line with the cost of living.
“It is not fair to raise the rates 26 percent or even 10 percent at one time, so decided to increase it by 3 percent a year, a soft raise, and that allows it to be sustainable,” Gardner said.
He explained that the water commission has come a long way, chipping away at the long-term debts (now well under $100,000) and being able to break even with operating costs, but they are working toward being able to cover all depreciation costs and build up their debt reserve.
Gardner further explained they borrowed money from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority for the grinder pump replacements and to replace the water tank and that the 3 percent increase will also help them to make the payments for the necessary improvements.
“The water commission operates under an ordinance from the council that states that the commission is fiscally responsible to manage the utilities in a fiscally responsible way,” Gardner said. “That ordinance was written about 40 years ago and that’s what we try to do now.”
City Councilman Tommy Bailey stated that he thought the rates were already high enough and that the commission should drop the sewer portion of the business if it is not economically profitable.
“You can’t run a city like a business or you would have police, a fire department, or anything like that,” Gardner said. “The people need that public service. The ordinance requires that we operate fiscally responsibly, but we also have to address the public health aspect of the commission. A lot of residents wouldn’t be served without grinder pumps and there would be a lot of sewage in the river.”
Bailey asked if the grinder pumps system is a burden to the city or if it makes a profit.
“No, but it breaks even and provides a service,” Gardner refuted. “We’re not losing or making money. I don’t think it’s the job of a public entity to make a profit.”
Councilman Jeff Bailey said he was thankful for the commission and the strides they have taken to better manage Salyersville Water Works.
“I wouldn’t have his job and I think our rates would be 30 to 40 percent higher if someone else was running it,” Bailey said.
Gardner invited the council to the water commission’s public meetings, held fourth Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m.
Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd commended the water commission and emphasized his support of the 3 percent increase, stating that the rates would be 30 percent higher if the state had taken over and they have come a long way from where they were in 2010.
In other news, the council unanimously agreed to keep the motor vehicle and watercraft tax rates the same, as well as the property tax rates. Shepherd explained that by keeping the same rates, they will take in less revenue that they did last year, but he doesn’t expect it to be a problem.
Shepherd said his number one priority when they have the money will be to finish installing the tornado shelter.
He announced that the Heritage Days schedule has been finalized and released (in this week’s paper) and they will be honoring the late Todd Preston, as well as the first five families. Fourteen food booths have already signed up, baby contest signups are going on now, and the opening ceremony is slated for next Wednesday.
Shepherd said the city is working on the flooding problems on Coal Branch, but they are already down to solid rock in the culverts and the location of the sewer lines under the tiles. He said they were under the limit to receive aid from FEMA for the last round of flooding.
The next regularly-scheduled city council meeting is slated for September 18 at 7 p.m. at Salyersville City Hall.