CG council eyes water rate hike

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 2, 2004

COAL GROVE - Still coming through critical financial times, the Coal Grove Village Council continues to look at ways to walk the tightrope between maintaining services and increasing rates.

And it appears council members are on opposite sides of the balancing beam.

Meeting in regular session Thursday, Council debated raising water rates by at least $1 per thousand gallons to bring back several employees that were laid off last year. Even though it appeared the idea had the support of three of the five present councilmen, all motions were eventually tabled or withdrawn therefore keeping rates the same - at least for now.

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Councilman William Bryant initiated a resolution to increase the rates by $1 per thousand gallons for village customers and Hecla and $1.25 per thousand gallons for Deering customers. These increases would generate approximately $100,000 per year.

Currently, the rates are $3.25 per thousand gallons for Coal Grove and Hecla and $4 for Deering. The rates were last increased in early 2002.

Kenneth Pyles seconded Bryant's resolution and later motioned to bring back three union employees and return a police officer from part-time to full-time two months after the increase would go into effect. Pyles later withdrew the motion and Council voted to table the rate increase.

Council was clearly split on the issue - Pyles, Bryant and Randy Wise voiced their support. Nick Miller and Phil Roush both questioned the need for the fee increases as well as the timing. Councilman Joe Waller was absent.

"We have to move on this," Councilman Pyles said. "We can't just sit here on our hands and watch the village go down the drain."

Councilman Miller disagreed that services would be affected that badly, questioned whether the village residents want to pay more to put these people back to work and.

"In November of 2003, Council as a whole, maybe not as individuals, but as a whole voted to lay these people off," Miller said. "Are we in that much better shape in April of 2004?"

Miller said he did not want to see a decision rushed without allowing for thorough research and some public input.

"Has anyone even researched to see if this increase will (generate enough money) to bring these guys back?" he asked.

The village pays 100 percent of the health insurance for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 771-IA union employees at a cost of more than $16,000 a year without even including wages.

But with a workforce that has dwindled to only two people in the water, sewer and street departments during some weeks, Pyles made his position clear. Soon, residents will have busted water lines, weeds growing up everywhere, mosquitoes and other problems that the village will not be able to handle with its current manpower, he said.

"We are just trying to maintain services," Pyles said. "It may come to a situation where we are laying people off in the winter just to maintain services in the spring and summer."

Pyles said he remains open to any ideas.