Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Council discusses water-sewer rates, what it might do for system if there's money to spend

By Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Water has been a long-discussed topic in Midway but it was brought up with new perspectives at Monday evening's city council meeting. When Mayor Grayson Vandegrift asked the council for any final remarks after a light business session, Council Member Bruce Southworth raised the topic.

Southworth noted that Kentucky American Water Co., the city’s wholesale supplier, has asked for a rate increase for its wholesale customers, and said Midway’s water isn't as pricey as residents may think. He cited figures from the Bluegrass Area Development District, showing that Midway's price per 2,000 gallons is $22.94 and the average of cities the same size is $21.77. Midway ranks eighth among the 12 small cities for that amount, and eighth or ninth for larger amounts. (Click on images for larger versions)
But water bills also include sewer charges, and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the overall bills are high because the city had to build a new, updated sewage-treatment plant in 2000 before the old plant had been paid off and is still paying off both plants.

Even so, the cost for "wastewater is below average," said Southworth. "You could move to Lexington and save $5 on your water bill if that's what you want to do. It's a misconception that water is higher in Midway."

Council Member Sarah Hicks asked if the plants could be paid off early if Midway were to have a windfall of money. The city ended the last fiscal year with a cash balance of $567,000 after expenses of $788,000 and unexpectedly high revenues of $1 million.

Vandegrift said the bonds on the old sewer plant are to be retired in 2018 and cannot be paid off early, but those on the new plant can. They run through 2022. He said, “It may cut the sewer rates in half if you paid both of them off,” which could happen as early as 2018.

However, the sewer system needs repairs, and Council Member Dan Roller said, “We’re spending very little money on our storm sewers now. They’re in awful shape.”

Vandegrift said, “The city is going to have to invest some of that money in infrastructure improvements. . . . We will cross that bridge when we get to it.” He said the city would consider investing in sidewalks and water lines.

Park committee is active

Vandegrift reported that the citizens advisory committee for Walter Bradley Park is making strides other than just advising.

Vandegrift said the committee has formed a volunteer group that will be laying mulch, donated by Midway-area nursery operator Dave Leonard, across all trails to make them more useful. "It will look nicer and be easier to walk on," he said.

Vandegrift reported that the committee is "working diligently and meeting once a month." The chair of this committee is Cecilia Gass.

The committee has raised a little over $2,500 through donations and $10 fees to be “friends of the park, Vandegrift said. More information on becoming a friend of the park can be found at www.facebook.com/WalterGBradleyPark.

The committee is working with University of Kentucky graduate students and will report back to the council in late spring or early summer with ideas, said Vandegrift. "This is going to be beneficial to the city in the long run," he said. "They are helping improve our city out of love."

The Walter Bradley Park citizens advisory committee will hold a public forum March 21at 6:30 p.m.  at City Hall to solicit ideas from the community.

Vandegrift said the other citizen advisory committee he appointed, to work on grants, is headed by Jo Gleese. She is also the new president of the Midway Renaissance civic group. Vandegrift said the committee’s focus needs to be on grants for infrastructure, such as roads and sidewalks.

Other business

The council approved a resolution to give $16,384.01 left over from a community development block grant for housing to Habitat for Humanity for the building of its latest home at 209 E. Stephens St.

The council approved a resolution declaring surplus the city’s 1982 Ford fire truck and 1984 fire-department van. The council did this informally at its last meeting, but Vandegrift said city attorney Phil Moloney thought a resolution was advisable.

The resolution says the vehicles can be sold "through sealed bids . . . or in any other reasonable commercial manner." Council member Libby Warfield asked, "What does ‘any other commercial manner’ mean?" Vandegrift replied, "I don't know, but I’ll let you know if it comes up."

The council voted to approve an event permit for the Race for Education on April 16. "The Race to Read" will have 200 to 300 runners, Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said.

The runners will start on West Main Street at the corner of North Winter Street, go down South Turner Street, out West Stephens Street and Spring Station Road and wrap back around for those running 10 kilometers. The race will run from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Vandegrift said owners of the log home on East Higgins Street that is in need of cleanup will be given only a few more days to do the maintenance. He said a lien will be placed on the property for the amount of work the city workers have to do if it is not cleaned up.

The meeting closed with a comment from Vandegrift that people have until March 1 to remove all artificial flowers from the cemetery.

The council meets the first and third Mondays of each month at 5:30. The next meeting will be March 7.

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