A proposed ordinance on an automatic wastewater rate hike is on tonight's Blytheville City Council agenda, but Council members are not expected to tackle the issue until February.
Councilman Tommy Abbott told the Finance Committee Monday that the board will have to take action on it one way or another, but indicated that won't happen until next month because Council members are under an approaching deadline to pass the 2013 budget.
"I don't understand all the legalities, but because we postponed the $13.90 in 2012, basically it postponed that rate increase and, if we choose not to do anything, it's kind of like an automatic tax increase that is already set in motion by this ordinance," Abbott said. "So if we don't approve the 2012 number, if we just leave it alone, it automatically goes to the 2013 number, which is $15.36."
The proposed ordinance asks that the consecutive rates established for, but not implemented for, the year 2012 become effective for 2013, beginning Jan. 1.
That would increase the Class 1 residential wastewater rate (3,000 gallons per month or less) from $12.57 to $13.90 per month. The rate for Class I Commercial (commercial and industrial users using less than 5,000 gallons a month) would rise slightly from $27.26 to $29.99 a month.
Then, the consecutive rates established for 2013 would be effective beginning Jan. 1, 2014, according to the measure.
According to the ordinance passed March 17, 2009, Class 1 residential wastewater rates were originally scheduled to be $11.36 in 2010; $12.57 in 2011; $13.90 in 2012; $15.36 in 2013; and $16.97 in 2014.
"Ordinance No. 1686 states if the City Council determines in any given year that the projected rate increases are unnecessary due to the city's wastewater being in a financially healthy state, the rate increases will not be imposed," the proposed ordinance reads. "At their regular Jan. 17, 2012, meeting the City Council voted to not impose the scheduled rates for the year 2012 due to the city's ADEQ consent order having been decreased by $1,000,000. ...The council currently deems it necessary to proceed to implement the consecutive rate increases for the years 2013 and 2014."
Meanwhile, the Council is expected to consider a resolution establishing rules of order and procedure in Council and committee meetings. The city's legislative body did not pass a set of rules of order last year and operated under the 2011 rules.
The sticky issue was whether or not to allow a public comment period at Council meetings.
The proposed 2013 rules of order say any person wishing to address the mayor and Council may be placed on the agenda at the request of their respective Council person by the deadline -- the Friday 10 days preceding the City Council meeting.
It says the mayor will be responsible for noting concerns and questions and responding to any citizen who addresses the mayor and City Council. The person is limited to five minutes or as determined by the mayor, according to the proposal.
However, the proposal allows Council members to move for additional time, which would require a two-thirds vote of Council members.
The proposal says Blytheville citizens wishing to address the City Council regarding agenda or non-agenda issues should use the following procedure:
-- Discuss their concerns with their City Council member.
-- If the Council member is unable to rectify the situation or satisfy the concerns, the Council member will refer the issue to the appropriate committee and ask the chairman of that committee to put the individual on the committee's agenda.
-- If the committee is unable to rectify the situation or satisfy the concerns of the citizen, the chairman or the citizen's City Council member shall request in writing or by email, to the mayor, to place the citizen on the agenda of the next regularly-scheduled Council meeting.
The measure also calls for the Council to vote for a president pro tempore, which was former councilman and current Arkansas District 55 Rep. Monte Hodges the last two years.
Also on the agenda tonight are:
-- A proposed ordinance amending Ordinance 1645, which provides for preservation of properties within the Historic District. The proposal says the change would correct a technical mistake on the Arkansas Code Annotated section. If passed, the section would read: "It is the legislative intent of the Blytheville City Council to grant to the Blytheville Historic District Commission Authority to the extent allowed under the Arkansas Historic District Act, Act 484 of 1963 as amended and codified at Arkansas Code Annotated Section 14-172-201, et seq. Should Arkansas law hereafter be amended, this Ordinance shall conform to state law."
-- A proposed ordinance adopting the Design Guidelines Manual of the Blytheville Downtown Historic District.
-- A proposed ordinance providing for minimum energy standards for new buildings and additions to existing structures.
-- A resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a lease agreement with the University of Arkansas, acting on behalf of the Arkansas Archeological Survey. The city would sub-lease Arkansas Aeroplex, Building 1244 that it rents from the Blytheville Gosnell Regional Airport Authority to UA for $9,286 annually for a term commencing July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.
-- A resolution that would condemn the following structures: 1016 Lilly, owner of record Charles Valley of Blytheville; 1028 16th St., owner of record Sanford and Olie Cunningham of Blytheville; 1032 16th St., owner of record Yvonne Howerton of Alexander, Va.; 2200 Chickasawba, owner of record John T. Elliott of Blytheville; and 1004 Denny St., owner of record Kyrisha Reneesea Carter of Blytheville.
-- A resolution accepting the resignation of Gary Griffin from the City Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission and appointing Christie Patterson.
The City Council will meet at 5 tonight in the Municipal Courtroom.