BAKER — On a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the City Council agreed to raise city fees on new gas lines and meters, new water meter taps, and sewerage rehabilitation for residents and businesses building within the city.
The fees haven’t been raised in a long time and are out of date with other municipalities, Mayor Darnell Waites said.
Council members Charles Vincent, Pete Heine, and Glenda Bryant voted in favor of the ordinance. Doris Alexander and Brenda Jackson cast the dissenting votes.
The fee for installing gas service lines within the city will now be $2.50 per foot, up from $1.50 per foot, and the cost of a new gas meter tap will increase from $200 to $300.
A new 5/8 to one inch water tap meter will cost $200, an increase of $50; a one-inch water tap, $350, up from $215; and the fee for a two-inch water tap will rise from $400 to $500.
The sewer rehab fee will increase from $36.81 to $50.
The new fees apply only to new residential and commercial construction.
After the meeting, Alexander said she voted against the increases because she didn’t trust the information she has been receiving from the city administration.
“We know we need to raise the utility fees (for monthly gas and water use) and I’m afraid they are trying to sneak that into this ordinance without the people knowing,” she said.
In other business, council members Vincent, Bryant, Heine and Jackson voted in favor, with Alexander abstaining, to allow the mayor to purchase a fire engine and two police patrol vehicles if funds become available.
All three of the city’s fire engines were damaged by the August 2016 floods, with only the ladder truck unaffected.
Rather than replacing the fire engines, the city’s insurance company agreed only to repair the trucks.
“They should have been replaced. We’re spending tons of money to keep them running,” Waites said.
The engines are old and needed to replaced anyway, he said.
A new engine should cost around $750,000, city finance director Mary Sue Stages said.
The city hopes to find grant money to pay for the engine or a way to finance it, she said.
“If we have to amend the budget or if it appears on the 2018 budget, the City Council will have to approve it,” Waites said.
The patrol cars would cost up to $50,000 fully equipped and the city would like to begin with replacing two and add two more later, he said.
The police department lost five vehicles during the flooding and, as with the fire engines, the insurance company agreed only to repair, not replace them.
The council also received the results of a state Attorney General opinion requested by Jackson on behalf of the council questioning whether the council president can preside over council meetings rather than the mayor.
The opinion states that the council cannot change the city’s charter, which grants the mayor the choice of whether to preside over the meetings. According to the charter, the council president may preside over meetings only if the mayor is absent or voluntarily gives up the right to preside.