Water bills, city hall dominate Valley Falls agenda
by Clarke Davis
With $10,000 in uncollected water bills on the accounts, city administrator Chris Channell is suggesting the council raise the deposit fee for new accounts. He is also suggesting lowering the amount that triggers cutting off water service.
“The $50 deposit rarely covers one month’s water bill for most people,” Channell said.
After one year, a resident who has a good payment history is refunded the amount on their water bill. Channell said the city could keep the deposit if it paid interest.
The city does not cut off water service unless a person’s account is $90 or more in arrears.
“We have people who pay just enough to get in under the $90,” the administrator said. “I think that amount should be lowered.”
As for the $10,000 in deliquencies, Channell said after further study he found a lot of that total was late fees, penalties, and interest. He is now assuming that the actual loss in what would have been water charges is about half that amount.
Attorney Rick Johnson is collecting some of that money and a few accounts were turned over to a state collection agency and the city might recover some money if the person is ever owed back taxes or other state revenues.
Landlords could also be made responsible for a renter’s water and sewer bills if the city passed a charter ordinance to that effect.
Channell found such an ordinance that had been drafted in 2004, but the minutes to do not reflect the council having discussed the matter or acted on its passage.
Under the ordinance, a landlord would have to co-sign an agreement along with the renter to obtain water service.
Future city hall
There have been pluses and minuses as the progress continues on razing the building at 417 Broadway. The building was gutted except for the front wall, which will be preserved and the location will one day become the city hall.
Heinen Custom Operations came in $3,000 under the $15,000 estimate to clear all the debris from the 2-story structure and saved nearly $8,000 in materials replacing the roof.
Project manager Bret Frakes told the council they got a break on the material because of a mix up on another job when the supplier ordered the wrong color. The savings went to HCO and thus to the city.
The council moved $34,000 into a capital improvement fund for Phase II of the project, but estimates are closer to $40,000.
Channell said it cost an extra $6,000 to pour a concrete cap on top of the supporting walls for the roof that hadn’t been planned. But the rest of the money should be sufficient to enclose the building.
The council approved spending $200 to have the sewer line inspected with a camera and establish both sewer and water connections before enclosing the building.
Work will progress over a three- or four-year period as funds become available to complete interior remodeling and turn the building into a new city hall.
Council woman Lucy Thomas showed the council members a sketch of the interior, stating she and Mark Boyce had met with HCO representatives to locate where the restrooms will be and include a small kitchenette in the rear of the building so plumbing can be installed before the floor is poured.
Thomas believes the second story floor should be included and the upper floor left unfinished for storage. She said the front of the building will remain unchanged and there is talk of incorporating some “green” ideas for heating the building. Boyce has suggested hydronic heat or use of water pipes in the floor heated by solar.
Both the capital improvement fund and the special equipment fund — called reserve funds — must be backed up by a city ordinance and Channell is telling the council it needs to be accompanied by a five-year capital improvement plan.
The council will attempt to build that plan in a special work session called for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27 at city hall.
In other business, the city council:
- has been informed that four parties on a private water line outside the west city limits have agreed among themselves to acquire a written agreement between themselves and the city determining responsibility for the service line. The matter came up last summer over the once private line used to water the new soccer fields.
- heard from utilities superintendent Daryl Courter who cited Willow and Fisher streets for possible overlays this summer along with a couple of blocks near the school.
- made mention a second time to approach local veterinarians about establishing a city dog pound, since the local animal shelter is usually too full to take stray animals.
- held an executive session to discuss some employee performance issues in the police and street departments.
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