VILONIA — The Vilonia City Council took the first step to raising sewer rates in the city during its Tuesday meeting.
The council approved the sewer department’s request to move forward on the proposal after a public hearing and the presentation of a rate study prepared by Susan Poe of the Arkansas Rural Water Association. She told the council, "You are not making any money whatsoever."
Just the opposite, she said. The sewer department’s asset fund, she said, is being depleted to take care of a USDA loan paying for the sewer facility with nothing left over for emergency repairs and upgrades. "You have to borrow from your savings, she said, to make your payments. You would have to charge higher than what you are charging to break even," she added.
Sewer department officials have proposed the rate increase to be $16 for the first 1,000 gallons and $6 per 1,000 gallons after. The current charge is $13.50 for the first 1,000 gallons and $5 per 1,000 gallons afterwards. Sewer department officials said the increase would amount to an average of $6 to $7 per month for most customers.
Prior to the rate increase, however, an ordinance must be drafted and passed on a third reading by the council, said Mayor James Firestone. The ordinance will be presented for the first reading at the February meeting, Firestone said.
The study was based on 2012 data with 1,334 customers, according to Bill Reed, sewer department manager.
In other action:
•The council approved placing some older, fire department vehicles on the auction block. Also, they approved transfer of ownership of one vehicle to the sewer department.
•Approved the hiring of AMB Contractors for the maintenance building project. A budget for the project is anticipated to be presented at the February meeting with work beginning in March, Firestone said.
•Firestone made his appointments for 2014 including Danny Rasmussen as city attorney and Marcus Vaden as judge, Brad McNew as the police chief and Keith Hillman as fire chief.
•Approved a resolution amending the 2013 budget. "All departments came out in the black," Firestone said. "That is a big accomplishment."
•Fire Dept. Chief Keith Hillman announced the city is under a burn ban. From Jan. 16, until Jan. 21, he said, about 100 acres have burned in the district. The majority of fire department calls in 2013, he said, were medical runs.
Also, he said, training classes will be held in Vilonia during the next couple of weeks with attendees coming from around the state.
The fire department, he said, has received a Rural Community Development grant (GIF) in the amount of $37,500 for updates at the training site and for fire station improvements.
•Planning Commission. Fred Fowlkes, city inspector and code enforcement, said there was no planning commission meeting in December. However, he said, there will be a January meeting. On the agenda, he said, will be the final plat for the Pleasant Creek Subdivision. The project was approved, he said, before there was a planning commission. Yet, he said, the "final plat" was not. Landowner Bill Jones, Fowlkes said, has been maintaining the streets which are in the city limits. The approval of the final plat will transfer the responsibility to the city for maintenance and repair.
--Code enforcement. During 2013, 54 building permits were issued including 37 single family homes, one duplex, two residential additions, 12 garage and storage, one school and one church, said Fowlkes. "It was a big year," he said. It’s been slow, he said, so far in 2014.
--Police Dept. Chief Brad McNew presented his end of the year report. In 2013, he said, the department handled 1,650 incident reports including 89 accidents compared to the 1,593 incident reports and 71 accident reports in 2012. In 2011, there were about 100 accidents, he said. He attributed the drop in accidents to the bypass.
Reporting on a Tuesday accident, McNew said the department’s 2012 Dodge Charger has been wrecked. The accident, McNew said, was not the fault of a police officer. It was "run over," he said, during a traffic stop. The Arkansas State Police, he said, worked the accident. The "good news," he said, is that no one was injured.
--Parks and Recreation. John Alexander of the Vilonia Sports Association, said signup for spring sports will begin Jan. 27, and continue through Feb. 16. Top soil and sand is needed at the park, he said, in order for the baseball program to be expanded. The association’s website address is viloniasports.com. They also have a Facebook page for more information.
--Senior Citizens Center. During the recent cold spell, Skip Cates said water pipes froze and burst at the center with some minor damage that has been repaired.