VILONIA — A rate increase on sewer bills went into effect Wednesday in the city of Vilonia. A four month procedure, the Vilonia City Council approved the final measure at the April meeting held Tuesday night.
"We have had a public hearing and three public readings," said Mayor James Firestone. "We have followed all the procedures. It’s to be effective immediately."
The first two readings of the ordinance were unanimously approved by the council. However, at the Tuesday reading, two council members, Art Pischke and Skip Cash, were not in attendance. Yet, there was a quorum with alderman Kathy French, Jim King, Joe Maxwell and Sherry Clements in attendance. Mayor Firestone said Pischke and Cash were absent due to illnesses. No one has voiced opposition at any of the three readings or at the public hearing.
The sewer department made the initial request in January following a rate study saying the sewer department’s asset fund is being depleted to take care of a USDA loan, to pay for the sewer facility, with nothing left over for emergency repairs and upgrades. It was also said the department has been borrowing from their savings to make the payments. In conclusion, the study said it would be necessary to charge higher rates to break even.
The rate increase is 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 officials have said that the increase would amount to an average of $6 to $7 per month for most customers.
In other business, the council approved the ordering of a police vehicle at a cost of about $24,500. Chief Brad McNew said he will be ordering a Chevrolet Caprice due to its larger interior. The budget for the vehicle had been previously approved. McNew anticipates it will take several months for delivery and outfitting.
Firestone made some appointments to the planning commission. He said there has been some turnover due to jurisdiction changes. Due to a resignation by Brian Lane, Firestone appointed Melissa Jenkins to fill the remainder of his term which expires Jan. 2016. Firestone also reappointed John Bonner, Frank Mitchell and Charles Coker to continue their service on the nine member commission. Other members include Charlie Weaver, Sheila Pruitt, Herman Eary, Preston Scroggin and Marshall Smith.
• The process for building a ballpark on North Mount Olive has begun, Firestone said, with securing right of ways for utilities. Also, the foundation has been poured and the forms have been set for the city maintenance building.
• Bidding will be held Friday regarding two projects including a floor renovation at the city hall and the water and sewer project to the ball park. Bidding for the floor will be 1 p.m. and the water and sewer at 2 p.m.
• Fire department. Chief Keith Hillman said hydrant testing will begin April 20.
• Planning commission: Fred Fowlkes, city engineer/code enforcement, said there have been a total of four building permits issued since the first of the year including two single family and two storage facilities. "It’s slow," he said. There was also a brief discussion about recent water issues due to the recent rains.
A planning commission meeting is set for 7 p.m., April 24. Fowlkes said the agenda items will include a request for a set back variance at 23 Whispering Wind by Colton and Carol Guilliams.
• Police department. McNew said the force will be upgrading their guns at a cost of about $2,300.
• Senior citizens. The council approved paying a part time worker to help with the cooking at the center for about a month while another worker is recovering from surgery.