Base rates for water in Stevensville were supposed to go down last fall, but the installation of the water metering system required so that users could be charged for the amount they use over the base was delayed for a number of reasons. Without a metering system the base rate had been set at $40 per month. With the metering system it was estimated that the base rate could be dropped to $29.12.
At the last Town Council meeting, Mayor Gene Mim Mack proposed that the new base rate of $29.12 be adopted since the town residents have been waiting for a while and the metering system would probably be up and running in a month. He said it seemed like a fair way to proceed.
Councilor Bill Perrin was in agreement. He said that the residents were told that the town was going to lower the rates last fall.
“But we carried the higher base rate through the winter,” said Perrin, “when water use is at a minimum.” He said that it was important to maintain credibility.
Councilor Desera Towle said that she was torn. She could understand the need to keep promises, but she could also see the need to keep the revenue up.
Councilor Ron Klaphake raised the question about the role the revenue plays in the bond payment for the water system. He said that the average rate was calculated to be $40 and should continue until the metering system was working.
“What if it isn’t working in a month? Then what?” he said. He said that if the residents did pay the higher base rate in winter when there is not much use over the base, they also paid it during the summer when some use was very much greater.
Klaphake swung the majority to his line of thinking and the council voted 3 to 1 with Perrin dissenting to keep the base rate at $40 per month till the metering system is functioning.
In other business, the Council got reassurances from Town Treasurer Stephani Mapelli concerning tax revenues for the year. With only two months left in the fiscal year, she said, only 65% of projected tax revenues had been received. She said county officials assured her that the second half of the tax collections would be coming in June and that the town would be within 95% of its anticipated revenues.
The Treasurer also noted that Town Judge Marty Berkeneder had not submitted any revenues from fines to the Town since January 2012. She said that out of $32,500 in estimated revenue, they had only received $12,122, or only 37% in nine months. She said she had requested the judge to turn over the funds.
Councilor Towle said that she had made an inquiry with the judge about it and felt that the response showed some lack of respect.
Councilor Perrin suggested that the Mayor inform the Judge that the Council would like a report at its next meeting.
Councilor Klaphake said that he questioned whether the money shouldn’t be turned over to the Town immediately.
“She shouldn’t be sitting on any money,” he said.
The Mayor said he would request the Judge make a report.
Mapelli noted that more than $30,000 was overdue in the Town’s water billing and that only 68% of projected revenues had been received.
Mapelli also noted that the Town has not received a bill for legal services since December. She said that in the past Town Attorney Keithi Worthington’s pay has averaged about $5,000 per quarter. She said that was a significant amount of money.
Councilor Perrin suggested that the Mayor write her a letter requesting her bills.
Mapelli also noted that in the Building Department the salary line was 90% expended at the end of nine months. The office supply expenditures were 138% over budget and publicity and subscriptions were 147% over budget.
Mayor Mim Mack said that he had addressed the issue by reducing the Building Inspector’s hours to 4 hours on Saturday. He said there was a $10,229 carryover from the last fiscal year that was not shown in the budget.
The Council also:
• approved a TSEP grant application for the Sewer Improvement Project and authorized the Mayor to sign a program grant.
• accepted in form a right of first refusal and a warranty deed related to the well-field property at Twin Creeks subdivision.
• approved a contract for a two-year audit with JCCS.
• approved a permit for the Stevensville Western Heritage Days event.