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Town To Air Budget Plans

FARMVILLE – Town Council approved a proposed 2012-13 budget during Wednesday night's May meeting that does not raise taxes, will institute a $10 per month sanitation fee, and provide Town workers with a four percent raise.

A public hearing on the proposed budget, which predicts a year-ending revenue over expense balance of $608,000, will be scheduled.

Sanitation Fee

Town officials said during Wednesday evening's budget work session preceding the May meeting that the public seems to be responding favorably to the proposed sanitation fee.

“I heard from a few people about the sanitation fee and really nobody had a problem with it,” Town Manager Gerald Spates told Town Council. “They said they think it's fair. They said the best thing is to make sure you explain what it goes for.

“You know, you furnish the trashcans, the equipment and landfill fees, you know, they're not getting cheap,” Spates said.

Much of the work session was then spent noting the services the Town provides without charging the fees some other localities impose on their residents.

Council member Donald L. Hunter agreed, saying, “I haven't heard anything but positive things” about the proposed sanitation fee, which will be added to the monthly water/sewer bill. For those few town residents not using Town water and sewer a manual bill will be sent.

“We really need to explain that,” council member Sally Thompson said, regarding the many services provided by the Town without a separate fee.

“Do we replace trashcans?” asked Hunter.

“Oh, yeah,” Spates answered.

“Do we charge for them?” Hunter asked.

“No,” the town manager replied. “The only time we ever charge is if they destroy the trashcans themselves.”

Replacements from normal wear and tear are provided free.

“You will get your trashcans replaced,” Hunter noted, saying the sanitation fee will include that replacement. “I know a lot of people don't know that.”

There is also individualized service by Town workers who take into consideration the needs of elderly or handicapped residents unable to take the large trashcans to the curb.

“You'd be surprised how many residents we pick up at their back door because they're elderly or handicapped,” Spates said.

“And that is another service,” said council member Thompson, “that is provided for free.”

Spates said Town sanitation workers don't mind providing that service and they maintain a list of those residents who need it.

“It's nice that we can offer that,” said council member Tommy Pairet.

Hunter also noted the Town's fall and spring cleanup campaigns.

“We don't charge for that,” he said.

'No,” agreed Spates.

“We don 't even charge for fall and spring cleanup,” echoed Ms. Thompson.

And what about brush pick-up?

No charge for that, either, Spates replied.

“Most localities charge for leaf pick-up,” the town manager continued. “They charge you a flat fee for coming to your house and then they bill you based on how long it takes to get the leaves up.”

Ms. Thompson stressed, “We give that as a service.”

“The bottom line,” council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon said, “is we could itemize so many things and charge for every single thing but we're trying to stay the friendly town but we have got to…pay for some of this stuff. We're about the only one left who isn't (charging fees) and I think that what we're proposing-and this is what we discussed at our committee-is fair. We're leaving out a number of things that everybody charges for and we're still not charging for them, like the leaf pick-up; that's a huge thing and yet we're still not charging for that…But I think there comes a time you start walking backwards and losing too much money unless you start charging for something. And we're at the bottom of the list and everybody else is charging and we're not.”

And so the sanitation fee of $10 is fair, Town officials noted.

“This is the fairest way we can go,” said Dr. Gordon. “And we are trying to be kind where we can be.”

Hunter looked at the $10 a month sanitation fee and said, “the actual breakdown is…we're picking up four times a month and it only costs $2.50 a week.”

“Plus we give the trashcans to put it in,” the town manager concluded, adding, “you're saying the exact same thing someone said to me yesterday-as long as you explain what the bill is for and why you're paying $10 and what you're getting for it, nobody will have a problem.”

People don't realize, Dr. Gordon said, “that this service is very unusual for a town to offer for free like we have been doing for years and years and years so some of this we just can't absorb anymore.”

Monthly Water Billing

The Town expects to begin monthly billing for water and sewer in July, ending the bimonthly billing cycle.

Town officials believe the shift will be more efficient financially and will also spot water leaks more quickly because those leaks are often detected by much larger than normal water use, which is reflected in the bill.

Other Action

In other action during the May meeting, Town Council:

Was told the municipal pool will open on Saturday, May 26, and that the municipal golf course is attracting 25 to 26 rounds each day.

Adopted a resolution for a USDA Rural Development grant/loan for a police car and computers for the Treasurer's Office.

Learned the Town's recycling rate is 43 percent of its waste.

Will advertise for residents interested in filling a vacancy on the Farmville Industrial Development Authority.

Noted the house at 820 Longwood Avenue, recently purchased by the Town, will be sold, with the Town retaining the right to accept or reject any bid and negotiate with any bidder.

Ward D council member Donald L. Hunter noted that he and Ward C council member, Vice-Mayor Armstead D. Reid, will be holding their quarterly Ward meeting on May 17 at 6 p.m. in the Town Council meeting chamber.