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(February 2019) Sewer customers in Clarksburg will see an increase in their sewer bills beginning with their March bills as a result of action taken during the regular meeting of Clarksburg’s …
(February 2019) Sewer customers in Clarksburg will see an increase in their sewer bills beginning with their March bills as a result of action taken during the regular meeting of Clarksburg’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Monday night. The minimum bill will remain at $15 per month, but the usage per gallon of water will increase by $.00405, or $4.05 per thousand gallons. The current rate is $6.95 per thousand gallons, and the new rate will be $11.00 per thousand gallons. Clarksburg’s current minimum bill consists of 1500 gallons plus $15 for a total of $25.43. The new minimum bill will be $31.50, or approximately $6 per month. Among the customer base in the City, the average use is 2500 gallons. Those users will see an increase of approximately $10 per month.
Mayor Howell Todd presented an overview of why the increase was necessary at this time. “The wastewater account had a deficit of $24,000 last year, and we are on track to have a $11,000 deficit this year. We simply cannot ignore this, for we do so at our peril” said Todd. “I have already received a letter from the State Comptroller requiring us to respond by May 24 to a lengthy questionnaire concerning why we allowed the $24,000 deficit to occur. To continue in a deficit status will guarantee that the state will come in and set the rates for us, and you can be assured that they will not be merciful.” Todd continued. “It is a matter of whether we address it on our own terms and show the Comptroller that we are owning the problem and committed to fixing it or simply ignore it and let the State handle it.”
When asked why the Wastewater Account had reached this crisis stage, Todd said that rates should have been gradually increased over the years since the sewer system began in 2005. “I can’t comment on those years back that far. We can only find a very minimal increase in 2012, and then a minimal increase last summer. The proverbial chickens have come home to roost.” he said. “When utility systems are new, it is easy to think that the need for maintenance isn’t a priority. Then you wake up a few years later when problems begin to occur, and there is no money to replace pumps or address other maintenance issues.” “It really bothers me that the problem has reached a critical stage here in the first few months of my administration, but we are going to fix it. We owe it to the city to make the right decisions which will keep us moving forward and make every effort to minimize the hurt these decisions have on our citizens. What really bothers me most is the impact even a small increase will have on those on fixed incomes, especially the elderly. I wish we could have avoided it.”
In other business, the Mayor and Board authorized a transfer of $15,000 from the city’s general fund to the Wastewater Account. “Our current deficit is $8100. The increase in rates will hopefully allow the final four months of the year to have a positive balance. We have a $5,000 bond payment due, and the transfer from the general fund will allow us to cover these issues.” “I am making this recommendation with the full knowledge that this action is frowned upon by the State, and we can be certain that there will be an audit finding for this year’s annual audit. We simply have to take the hit, for we have no alternative. We have to pay our bills.” Todd noted that utility funds like the wastewater account must be operated separately from the general business of the city. No funds may be taken from the utility accounts and used by the city for other purposes. Similarly, no funds may be taken from the city’s general fund and placed in the wastewater account without incurring an audit finding. Todd noted that the deficit issues only pertain to the wastewater account and that the City’s overall budget situation was in great shape.
Todd noted that a new policeman had been employed effective Monday. Kenny Tucker, a deputy for the Carroll County Sheriff, will cover the morning shift as his work schedule allows. Authorization to purchase the new Christmas decorations for the city was also approved. “The people of this city and a few significant businesses have been extraordinarily generous with us, and we are very near our fundraising goals,” Todd said. The new “Snowflake” designs will be erected on utility poles extending from the Dollar General Store to the Cowboy Store. A resolution promoted by the Carroll County Health Department was adopted making the City Park a smoke free zone including the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). The financial reports for the month of January were also approved.