The Trenton City Council last night on a split vote decided to delay by two months, implementation of a planned eight and a half percent increase in the water rates.
The decision moves the rate increase to reflect water usage in June and reflected on bills customers received for July, however, the status of increasing the water rates is to be re-evaluated by the council before then. Proponents of the delay, including Brad Chumbley and Glen Briggs, stated it’s something the city can do to help households struggling financially with the coronavirus situation sweeping the country.
Trenton Municipal Comptroller Rosetta Marsh when asked, stated the planned April increase in water rates had not yet been calculated in the accounting system. She previously had mentioned the increase would range from $4.50 to $4.85 per month on an average residential customer bill.
Briggs, who stated he was putting the idea of a delay up for a vote after hearing from constituents, presented the motion. Mayor Linda Crooks, participating from her home via Zoom, called for a roll call vote. The delay got approved with 5 votes in favor and 3 opposed. Those voting for the delay were Briggs, Chumbley, Lou Fisher, Danny Brewer, and Dave Mlika. Voting against the delay were Cathie Smith, John Dolan, and via zoom Larry Crawford. Just prior to the vote on the two-month delay in increasing water rates, all eight council members agreed with Brad Chumbley’s motion to waive charging any late fees on unpaid TMU bills for the next three months.
Comptroller Marsh told the council the late fees collectively amount to about $15,000 per month with the majority, around $10,000 on the electric side. Chumbley also suggested that an emergency plan on TMU be put together for a committee, and/or city council to consider if economic conditions aren’t improving within the next couple of months.
The finance committee met prior to the city council last evening and discussed budgets for the city and TMU. Recommendations were made by the four-member committee to request city council approval of the proposed budgets. For TMU, that budget included the eight and a half percent water rate increase for 12 months. With the city council action of last night, the water department revenues will need to be amended to reflect that the rate increase is in effect for just ten months of the year.
The council adopted four new ordinances. One issues a conditional use permit to Orscheln Property Management for their new development at 1840 East 28th Street. Another approves the final plat on the Orscheln’s site. Two ordinances were approved with Howe Engineering. $75,000 is the total fee for the company to design and solicit bids for repairs around the raw water intake and seven areas around the city lagoons.
The areas experienced erosion during flooding last year and FEMA is to reimburse the city for the eligible cost of repairs. The other allows the Howe Engineering to update an owner-supervised plan and simplify the permitting on water system improvements. That cost is $29,000. All ordinances votes were by roll call.
Three motions were approved on voice votes regarding bids. Just one bid came in to make repairs to the exposed force main on the west bank of Muddy Creek. The Howe company sent the project advertisement to eight companies but most indicated they already had projects to do this year.
After much discussion, the council voted 7 to 1 to accept a bid from Rodriguez Mechanical Contractors of Kansas City for $154,957. That amount is considerably higher than the $84,000 repair estimate made by Howe Engineering. Most of the council felt the work needed to proceed since the city faces a limited time frame if it’s to get partial reimbursement from FEMA.
Muddy Creek flooding from May of 2019 caused the problem and there’s a belief it’ll flood again with the next heavy rain. Glen Briggs said FEMA allows 18 months for eligible work to be completed. At stake is $63,000 the city expects to be reimbursed by FEMA. Cathie Smith made the motion to accept the bid and request the contractor begin within 30 days. The motion carried.
Dustin Wilson of Trenton got the mowing bid on seven city-owned lots at a cost of $180 each time and mowing of the city cemetery three different times for $100 per occurrence. Five barrels of diesel engine oil will be purchased from MFA Oil of Trenton at $699 each. Wilson and MFA submitted the only bids.
After the meeting, City Administrator Ron Urton expressed appreciation to Comptroller Rosetta Marsh for being the host via the Zoom web application. She noted 26 people were online to view the council meeting which is more than the usual attendance.