Council discusses wastewater impact fees
The subject of "wastewater impact fees" didn't consume the most time in a lengthy meeting, but may have the most impact of any of the issues discussed at the Versailles City Council Tuesday. Mayor Brian Traugott said the city is in the midst of its biggest capital improvement in history - a $20 million renovation and expansion of its sewer plant. The project is financed by three 18.5 percent sewer rate increases, but Traugott has another idea to pay for future upgrades and keep rates down. "... Both in the wastewater plant and the collection system, some of the work was being done to accommodate future growth. It's for that reason that I asked for a study ... that would show what role new development plays in the cost and ... what role they can play ... in paying for these improvements," Traugott said. Traugott said the top two officials in the Public Works Department contacted Connie Allen of Salt River Engineering, a member of the Bluegrass Water Management Council. Allen met with the Water and Wastewater Committee last week as part of an effort to put together an ordinance implementing the wastewater impact fees. Allen said present customers have invested in the wastewater treatment plant and built up equity, and one of the goals of an impact fee is to have new customers buying into that equity. "One could say it's not fair that the rate payers have been building this utility for so long and a new customer comes in and immediately gets to take advantage of everything that you guys have been paying for," she said. An impact fee can help pay for depreciation of current equipment and future projects, lower the cost of bonds for those projects and, ultimately, lower rates, she said. "At the end of the day, more capital should be funded this way and less through rates," Allen said. An impact fee is not same thing as a tap fee, nor is it a tax, she said. It would only affect new customers, based on the size of the meter they need. Allen said impact fees have been used in Lexington, Owensboro, Louisville, Richmond, Oak Grove and Nicholasville. Council members Ken Kerkhoff and Ann Miller praised the concept, with Kerkhoff describing it as a way to ensure new customers "get some of their skin in the game." "Hopefully, we come to the conclusion that this is the right thing to do for Versailles," Kerkhoff said. Allen said anything that goes towards depreciation is actually attractive to customers. A first reading on the ordinance could be held at the council's Oct. 3 meeting. Police contract The council unanimously approved a new interlocal agreement with Woodford Fiscal Court extending the 2004 police merger for 10 years, with the city, county and Midway able to withdraw under certain conditions after three years. Changes to the existing deal including payments from the Woodford School District and city of Midway being taken off the top before the county's 38 percent share of operating expenses and 50 percent of capital expenses is calculated. Fiscal Court will also have a representative in budget discussions. Traugott saluted County Attorney Alan George for his role in the negotiations, saying he did a spectacular job. Gill said, "I appreciate this new spirit of cooperation." Woodford Fiscal Court and the city of Midway must still approve the deal, which will include a higher payment from the latter. Versailles Police Chief James Fugate said a new decal on the back of police vehicles will include the phrase "Serving all of Woodford County," or something like that. Cedar Ridge squabble Lisa Johnson, the president of the Cedar Ridge Homeowner's Association, was accompanied by other residents of that subdivision along with one of the subjects of their ire: Buzzy Nave of developer Naro. Johnson said she'd been president of the group for three years, but the problems with a retention basin there dated back a decade. Johnson asked the council to agree to a list of conditions ensuring that the basin is properly repaired. Nave said a contractor had been hired to clean and repair the basin and spray for mosquitos on Thursday and again in 21 days. Traugott said he wanted to ensure that the problem was taken care of before cold weather arrived. "We are a bit reluctant to accept that the work is going to be done properly," Johnson said. Nave said, "It's not like we've been doing nothing," adding later, "We've been working on this damn thing forever." "This is a city problem. It's not just a Cedar Ridge problem," Johnson said. Traugott said he was worried about setting a precedent, and assured Johnson and company that the problem would be solved. After nearly 20 minutes of discussion, a motion to approve spending $8,000 of a surety bond held by the city if the work wasn't done properly passed unanimously. Pay hike for mayor The council unanimously approved an ordinance making the job of mayor a full-time position, prohibiting other employment, and nearly doubling the pay to $66,500 a year. In would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019 -- after the next election. Huntertown Road sidewalk After a short explanation by Magistrate Mary Ann Gill (Dist. 7) of how federally mandated right-of-way acquisition rules will affect the 1.4-mile Huntertown Road sidewalk, the council approved spending up to $9,297 for the city's share of the new cost. The county and city are using an 80-20 state grant to pay for the sidewalk, work on which Gill said last week could begin next spring. Needle exchange The council unanimously expressed its support of a needle exchange program designed by the Woodford County Board of Health. Traugott said it was unfortunate that the program was needed, but that it would protect the health of citizens and first responders. Traugott said a December effort by the council to grant consent needed to be redone, and that the council and fiscal court can withdraw their consent at any time. Council Member Owen Roberts said he'd heard positive things about the way the program was working in Lexington.