The Chewelah City Council officially voted to eliminate three city employee positions at the Nov. 7 regular meeting.
The council eliminated the Chewelah Public Library paid position, the Parks/Cemetery/ Mapping position, and the Administrative Secretary/Planner position to help reduce the general fund budget by $250,000 as the city is no longer allowed to use electric utility funds for general fund purposes. The resolution (No. 12- 07) passed 4-3 as council members Dave Haskell, Sharon Ludwig and Carra Nupp opposed it.
Eliminating the Administrative Secretary position saves the city about $20,000 in the general fund and $11,827 in each utility fund. Eliminating the Park/Cemetery/ Mapping position saves $44,512 in the general fund, $18,932 in the water utility fund, and $4,411 in the sewer utility fund. Also, all library funding has been cut, saving about $98,000. However, the city will continue to pay for the library building, insurance and utilities cost to assist the Stevens County Rural Library District in keeping it open part-time in 2013 while a more long-term solution is worked out.
The council introduced Ordinance No. 847 for increasing utility taxes effective with December 2012 services. If adopted at the Nov. 21 meeting, sewer and water utility taxes will increase from 15 percent to 17 percent and a garbage utility tax will be implemented, also at 17 percent.
Raising the water utility tax increases revenue by $8,929; increasing the sewer utility tax adds $11,041; and implementing the new garbage utility tax increases revenue by $58,905.
However, the council also approved Resolution No. 12-06 to decrease electric base rates by $6.60 per month following a public hearing on revenue sources for the Fiscal Year 2013. Since electric utility funds can no longer be transferred to the general fund, the council wanted to return some of the savings back to the citizens.
City Administrator Mike Frizzell said average utility customers will save approximately $2 a month if tax increases are factored in along with electric rate decreases.
The council also adopted the ordinance fixing the property tax levy for fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2013 and the resolution authorizing the levy at $415,880. The council is allowed to increase the property tax levy by a maximum of 1 percent each year to help make up for cost increases and, although the city council approved the 1 percent increase, the councilmembers decided not to charge citizens the extra amount that was not collected on property taxes in 2012 due to miscalculations or senior exemptions.
Ordinance No. 848 adopting the 2013 budget was introduced at the council meeting as well. In addition to the previous stated budget items, the new budget also includes removing pool funding ($46,654) and increasing street surfacing by $20,000.
Frizzell said there are four people on a pool advisory committee to help look into its condition and figure out a way for the community and city to proceed for the future. Citizen Kevin Herda requested that the city pay for an expert to inspect the pool and determine its exact problems so the committee can see if its reasonable to repair or not.
The council voted 6-1 to award the bid for the municipal sidewalk project to Accelerated Construction & Excavating out of Palmer, Idaho, the lowest responsible bidder, at $35,879.33. The project to add sidewalks around the city municipal complex is completely funded by an enhancement grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Frizzell said the city is legally required to accept the offer from the lowest responsible bidder. Nick Lasko opposed the contract award.
The council also awarded the contract to repair the Grant Street Bridge to local contractors Baumann Brothers Construction who offered the lowest bid at $19,478.80. The project is funded by STPR money available through the state. The contract is to build the two wing walls of the bridge preventing flood waters from washing the road away.
The council voted 5-2 to put the courtesy trashcans back on Main Street since they were just removed for the winter season. Originally, Herda, owner of Valley Drug Co., told the council the trashcans have never been moved before and asked for his back, which he was promised as long as he emptied it himself.
However, councilman Nick Lasko made the motion to put them back for any businesses who want them, and have the city continue to empty them on a weekly basis all year round. Councilwoman Carra Nupp said it is a service to the community to help keep the street free of trash that accumulates all year. John May and Dorothy Knauss opposed the motion.
Herda also said the Chamber of Commerce wants to purchase two gateway banners to be placed across Highway 395 on the north and south end of Chewelah to promote the town and current events. Frizzell said the current poles will not support the weight of a large banner but will have to look into the options available.
The chamber also asked for the city’s help in replacing the banners on each city light pole to reflect the season. Local businesses help purchase the banners but need assistance and use of a bucket truck to put the new ones up before Thanksgiving. Frizzell said he would have to look into to see if it is acceptable to use electric services for a community project that is not electric related.
Mayor Bauman announced that City Secretary Tracy Ferrell has been awarded a certificate of wellness leadership by AWC (Association of Washington Cities) for the Chewelah “Chewellness” program. Ferrell has helped Chewelah become a Well-City, which gets employees a 2 percent discount on insurance rates.
The wellness program will be dropped in 2013 with the elimination of the Administrative Secretary position.
The council approved the updated contract with Stevens County public works for chip seal services.
Nupp asked the council to consider looking into a solution regarding deposits due on senior apartments if tenants move to an adjacent apartment within the same building. Nupp said she does not believe seniors should have to pay another deposit even though the first deposit would be returned eventually as some seniors have to borrow money to afford it. Frizzell said that clause protects the city from loss.
Justin Peterson presented a flag to Mayor Clancy Bauman from U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers to place on the pole in the city park. The flag has flown over Capital Hill in Washington D.C.
The next Chewelah City Council meeting is Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the council chambers.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff