Caraway Council reviews water spending

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Town Crier News Staff

The Caraway city council met Monday evening, Nov. 9, with a lengthy discussion on potential review of future water rate study.

Mayor Joe South reviewed the draft of the city's 2007 proposed budget with council members. Discussions involved a study on potential water rate increase and need to look at meeting the growing expenses of providing water and sewer to the city's residents. Water Superintendent Terry Couch brought up the need for a new sewer machine. Councilmen reviewed the growing expenses of pumping water.

"We should have probably been bumping up the fees to customers all along instead of waiting until now," Couch said. "We have not had an increase in 20 years."

"That goes for the whole department," Alderman Bo James said.

"This department is a sinking ship right now," said Couch.

"Have we ever had to use money out of the water account for other needs?" Alderman Kenny Weathers asked.

Mayor South said on occasion.

"I recall drawing $18,200 out of water and sewer to pay for trucks from the street department," Weathers said. "I kept griping until we got it back in the water department. It is getting to a point that we have to do something. We don't need to keep cashing in money and depleting our funds. We can't shut down our water, as it is municipal water."

"If this was a private business we would have been selling it a long time ago," said Couch. "We are giving good services, but there is not enough income coming in."

"Do you do plumbing and inspections too?" James asked.

"Yes," said Couch. "We are sitting on a time bomb. We are lucky that our town is sitting on sand. We have a lot of stuff that needs replacing."

"What about charges for back hoe work?" asked Weathers.

"We charge $35 an hour for back hoe service, and out of town it is $60," said Couch. "With 1,349 people (water customers) in our town, we have to find ways to pay for needed repairs."

"I hate to see us raise the rates," said Weathers.

"This situation needs to be studied and something done about it," said South.

After reviewing the 2007 budget in depth, the council voted to accept it as stands, while continuing to look for answers.

The council passed Resolution 2006-2 setting 2007 tax fees. The council agreed to leave real and personal property taxes at 1.8 mills.

Funds were used last month to pay the city's part of the new bridge on Missouri and Asher streets, movement of water line and rock foundation. Appropriation of $5,000, for materials only, was approved to be taken out of the General Fund instead of Water and Sewer Department account.

"We are thankful not to have to bear the whole cost, and we deeply appreciate what the county has done to help us," said South.

"The city can be proud of the bridge, as it was a good investment," said Alderman Marvin Browning.

"Approval of payment for firemen in the fire department does not have to come before the council, but I just want you to know about the 36 fires they have attended," said South. "Payment for the firemen is $3,640. This has already been budgeted and has been paid. The firemen get $15 dollars for responding to those inside the city and $5 for ones in the county."

"Fire Chief Barry Riley will be handing out the 27 checks on Dec. 3," Riley said.

The council approved the annual allotment to the Caraway Ambulance Service of $2,500 for 2007.

Christmas bonuses were discussed for city employees. Proposed bonuses of $400 for the nine full-time employees was proposed, with $200 for the three part-time employees.

"This sounds fair, as the extra policemen sure pulled some slack to help us out," said James.

"The question is, can we afford it?" said Weathers.

"We can," said Mayor South. "I think they will all be expecting it."

"They are all good workers," said Browning. "The $400 and $200 amounts are the same as last year."

The bonus recommendations were passed unanimously.

"We have fabulous and wonderful city employees," said South. "They are deserving of the bonus. As long as we can afford it we should continue to give them a bonus.

"I have enjoyed working for the city," said South. "Actually I feel sorry for Barry. I'm not going anywhere. I am staying right here. My phone number is in the book, and people know where I live."

Mayor South the academy graduation of patrolman Adam Reed will be on Nov. 17 at 11 a.m.

Sidewalks at the Caraway Housing complex are scheduled for completion in two or three months.

The Caraway Christmas Parade will take place on Dec. 2, beginning at 6:30 p.m., lining up at the city park heading north to main street.

Alderman James reported that work at the city park is looking good.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at city hall.

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