Sewer, Water Rates Raised 30%
The Canton City Council tables a resolution for a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales.
Tonight, the Canton City Council will discuss a possible Sunday alcohol sales referendum that would put the decision in the hands of the voters. Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed legislation that allows counties and cities to vote on the issue. During a May 5 work session, the council asked city attorney Robert Dyer to draft a resolution that directs the city clerk to call such a referendum. A referendum wouldn't require too much heavy lifting in Canton, where voters are already set to vote for mayor and three council seats Nov. 8.
Water and sewer rates are also on the agenda again. City leaders met with the Cherokee Water & Sewerage Authority earlier this month to discuss possible solutions to the city's mounting debt, much of which is tied to the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir.
And finally, Mayor Gene Hobgood asked Dyer to give a report on the history of City Council action regarding compensation for the city council. City clerk Coty Ervin researched the minutes and found only one council meeting where compensation was discussed. At that March 4, 1993 meeting, the compensation for council members was set at “$35 per Work Session and $35 per Council Meeting, if in attendance at the meetings, not to exceed $70 per month." The compensation for the mayor was set at $250 per month.
Canton-Sixes Patch editor Rodney Thrash is at the meeting. Follow his live updates on Twitter (@CantonSxesPatch), and we'll compile those messages here a few minutes later for further contemplation and comment. Click on the PDF on this page for the agenda.
8:51 p.m. Nearly three hours after the meeting began, we're done.
8:51 p.m. Hobgood moves to delete the executive session to discuss personnel. Approved.
8:50 p.m. State law prohibits that, Dyer says.
8:49 p.m. Dyer tells Rust that any ordinance that allows the council to receive more than $840 this year is considered a pay increase.
8:48 p.m. The mayor yields his part of the meeting to public input, which the council voted not to have earlier in the meeting.
8:47 p.m. Rush's motion is approved.
8:46 p.m. Rush suggests that the city take $250,000 to create a reserve fund that can't be touched unless voted on by the council.
8:45 p.m. The Stormwater Utility Credit Program is approved.
8:43 p.m. He also wants the city to create a reserve fund. The city doesn't have one.
8:43 p.m. The city manager's report is done. The council-introduced items are next. Rush wants to adopt the Stormwater Utility Credit Program manual.
8:42 p.m. RaceTrac, Dyer says, has asked for annexation requests to be tabled.
8:41 p.m. Next: Should Canton sell Southview Cemetery or not?
8:39 p.m. Beresford and Rush are speaking in favor of motion, which passes unanimously.
8:37 p.m. A motion is on the floor to leave rates at $7.50. Rose introduces it. Goodwin offers a second.
8:36 p.m. The council now is discussing senior garbage rates. Rose says it's not appropriate to go up on seniors when the city has just increased water rates.
8:32 p.m. Hobgood says it will be really hard to support another increase in October. "This is a really big increase," he says.
8:32 p.m. A 30 percent water and sewer rate increase is approved.
8:29 p.m. Rush moves to approve the rate increase as proposed by city manager. Here's his proposal. http://twitpic.com/4zuvti
8:28 p.m. The city manager's report begins with the discussion of water and sewer rates.
8:27 p.m. The attorney sent the resolution to the city clerk, but she didn't receive it. The topic is tabled. That was quick.
8:27 p.m. Finally, it's the Sunday alcohol sales referendum.
8:25 p.m. The city says it needs that money at a time when it is considering raising garbage rates for seniors.
8:23 p.m. The council approves a motion waiving all fees except the impact fees. Beresford is once again the dissenting vote.
8:19 p.m. Tanner expresses the predicament city is in. The city is looking at raising garbage rates and water rates. So how can the city waive $127,000 in fees for a multimillion-dollar company?
8:17 p.m. Universal Alloy hasn't done a public announcement on its investment in Canton, the official says.
8:16 p.m. The $28 million expansion/addition will yield another $40 million to $50 million in sales for Universal Alloy.
8:15 p.m. In Canton, the number is closer to $100 million.
8:15 p.m. Tanner asks for the exact revenues of UAC. An official said they can't disclose that because the company is privately owned, but it does $200 million in sales.
8:13 p.m. There's no second. Rush suggests the city waive all the fees with the exception of the $65,000 in impact fees.
8:12 p.m. Beresford makes a motion to accept the proposal, and it's to the tune of $127,000 in fees.
8:11 p.m. Universal Alloy wants the city to waive $65,000 worth of impact fees.
8:06 p.m. Coming up after this: the Sunday alcohol sales referendum.
8:05 p.m. "Anyone that flies," the official says, "you don't realize that the plane starts here in Canton."
8:04 p.m. Here's the letter Universal Alloy sent to Canton council members.
8:02 p.m. The company is adding a second press. "The commitment here is significant to Canton," the official says.
8:01 p.m. Official: "UAC is committed to the Canton area. We came here in 1997 and expanded the business in 2004. And we're here again to expand."
8 p.m. Universal Alloy official: Fees were waived the last time the company made an expansion in 2004. The impact fees were not.
7:59 p.m. The company will add 90 jobs by 2014 in addition to the jobs already here.
7:58 p.m. New topic: Universal Alloy fee waiver request.
7:58 p.m. Beresford moves to add additional classes of insured in the city. This allows any retiree to stay on health insurance as long as they pay until they meet a certain age. It also covers spouses. All voted for the additions except Rush.
7:58 p.m. "And we don't know how much," Rush says.
7:57 p.m. Hobgood asks for questions and discussion. Rush says it will add cost to the city's insurance program.
7:56 p.m. The council is now taking action on health insurance retiree classification. http://twitpic.com/4zuip7
7:52 p.m. This is the letter the council is referencing right now. http://twitpic.com/4zuh9c
7:50 p.m. New topic: a letter the city received regarding the use of river water to irrigate the golf course.
7:49 p.m. As an aside, Wood says the rate increase proposed tonight would generate $500,000 this fiscal year but still leave the city $1 million short.
7:47 p.m. Hobgood asks Beresford, Rose and Goodwin to serve on a committee to review water and sewer billing procedures.
7:45 p.m. Next up: new street paving projects.
7:45 p.m. The council asks Raftelis to come back with a report to help members make a more informed decision about what route the city should take.
7:44 p.m. Right now, Canton has 50-50 control of the reservoir. If the city gives up its share, it will have no decision-making power, Hobgood says.
7:39 p.m. Hobgood to Raftelis' consultant: What number would allow this city to break even?
7:37 p.m. Goodwin: If we can keep our system and get rid of our debt, I would like to look at that scenario. It concerns me getting rid of all of it.
7:32 p.m. Beresford to CCWSA: Get rid of the reservoir, and get rid of the water and treatment plants. Give us the hard numbers.
7:31 p.m. Scenario 3 presents an option that falls between the first two scenarios.
7:30 p.m. Under Scenario 2, the city’s current water and sewer rates are increased to the level that CCWSA currently charges its retail customers.
7:30 p.m. And the city would incur wholesale water and sewer costs for service provided by CCWSA.
7:30 p.m. The costs of operating the treatment plants would be removed from the city’s operating budget.
7:28 p.m. Under Scenario 1, the responsibility for debt obligations related to the reservoir would be transferred to Cobb County.
7:26 p.m. Raftelis' Lex Warmath, who recommended the city increase water rates 20 percent, is at the podium now.
7:25 p.m. The council says it needs more adequate information before it can make a decision on CCWSA's proposal.
7:18 p.m. The council continues to discuss the report.
7:06 p.m. Next up: the Raftelis report on the Cherokee Water and Sewerage Authority’s proposal to take ownership of Canton’s water and sewer. The scenarios include:
1. Ownership of and capacity at the Reservoir is transferred to Cobb County in exchange for taking on the outstanding debt obligations related to it, which approximates the City’s costs from inception. Ownership and operational responsibility for the water and wastewater treatment plants will be transferred to the Cherokee County Water and Sewer Authority (CCWSA) and the City will pay CCWSA wholesale rates for water and wastewater service. The City will retain ownership of the water distribution system and wastewater collection system.
2. The City will maintain ownership of the capacity at the reservoir and the treatment plants. To generate additional revenue, the City will adjust its rates to match those currently charged by CCWSA to its retail customers.
3. This scenario combines 1 and 2. The City transfers its ownership in the plants and ownership of and capacity at the Reservoir and adjusts rates to match those charged by CCWSA.
7:06 p.m. All members vote for the motion.
7:05 p.m. Hobgood said the compensation would be exactly what the city is doing now "with the exception of since this year the council theoretically would have to be paid $840, there would be a provision: The difference between $840 and $2100 would be paid right after the first of the year."
7:02 p.m. Beresford suggests the city let Rust’s citizen committee go to work.
6:59 p.m. Hobgood wants to instruct city attorney to prepare ordinance to keep rates at the same level they are today. Motion's on the floor.
6:55 p.m. Pay is supposed to be monthly, City Attorney Dyer says. Annually, it’s $840. There are no minutes and ordinance discussing compensation for mayor and council, Dyer said.
6:52 p.m. “We cannot find in the record how Mayor and City Council should be paid,” Hobgood said. ... The reason this was put on here was not to change, but to clear up what we’ve been doing.”
6:51 p.m. “We are low paid, but none of us are here for the money,” Rush said. “I think the city of Canton is in dire financial straits. We’re probably going to lose $300,000 in property taxes. I don’t think any council person should get higher pay until the city is in better financial shape.”
6:50 p.m. Next topic: Mayor and council compensation.
Tweets from 6:48 p.m. forward: Tanner, Rose, Beresford and Goodwin are in favor of the motion to rescind striping.
6:58 p.m. We've run into Internet connection problems and are on hold for now. We'll catch up with meeting notes when the connection is restored.
6:47 p.m. Tanner says she wants the council to compromise and come up with another idea as opposed to striping. She suggests signage and limiting hours.
6:44 p.m. Council member Jack Goodwin says there's been one accident where someone broke a collar bone there. "We may want to think of having smaller bicycles in there."
6:44 p.m. First: action to rescind the vote to do striping at Heritage Park for bike lanes.
6:43 p.m. The minutes from April 21 and May 5 are approved. Next up: old business.
6:42 p.m. He points to the council's decision to rescind a vote to do striping at Heritage Park for bike lanes.
6:41 p.m. He says some decisions by the council have not been "well thought out."
6:40 p.m. "Garbage collection fees should be relative to the amount of garbage you collected," he says.
6:40 p.m. He says the council should have been proactive because it knew of its financial woes.
6:39 p.m. "Tonight you're going to make a reactive decision to water and sewer rates," Cumming says.
6:39 p.m. Rush will introduce the topic near the end of the meeting.
6:36 p.m. Resident Glen Cumming speaks on the establishment of reserve accounts.
6:35 p.m. "It's a safety matter for the citizens," he says, not a beautification issue.
6:35 p.m. He thinks it is a good idea to paint bike stripes at the park.
6:34 p.m. He discusses bike lanes at Heritage Park.
6:34 p.m. Cherokee High freshman Brandon Roberts is up next.
6:33 p.m. "We need to get out of the water business," Colorito says. "It's not viable. You should hand it over to someone who knows how to run the water and sewer business."
6:32 p.m. Still at the podium, Colorito continues to weigh in on various topics on tonight's agenda.
6:29 p.m. He encourages residents to go to the state Environmental Protection Division's website to see more than $30,000 worth of fines against the city of Canton's wastewater treatment plant.
6:28 p.m. He says he was disappointed that the council removed public input from the end of meeting.
6:28 p.m. Resident John Colorito is up at the podium now.
6:27 p.m. "Don't make me have to come get you," he says.
6:27 p.m. Steve Nelson is next. "You have been duly appointed to be judges for the chili cookoff on May 19."
6:26 p.m. Rust wraps up his remarks.
6:25 p.m. "If we're going to pay more," Rust says, "we're going to expect more out of you."
6:24 p.m. "I have an opinion that the City Council members are woefully underpaid," he says.
6:23 p.m. The first meeting is a week from tonight at 6 p.m. The group will look at the salaries of council members. "How did they get here?"
6:22 p.m. He now discusses an independent committee he's created.
6:21 p.m. "Some of you are pretty quiet with your votes," he says. Rust says he would like to see a board to see how council members vote.
6:21 p.m. John Rust is up next. He slams the council for removing the public input period at the end of the meeting.
6:20 p.m. Bonner concludes his comments. Applause all around.
6:19 p.m. A Canton council member has proposed an increase in the senior garbage rates from $7.50 per month to $10 per month.
6:19 p.m. Hobgood wrote a blog post about the issue Wednesday.
6:18 p.m. He says he represents 2,000-plus seniors who live in Canton. "Do not remove the subsidy that seniors receive on garbage pickup."
6:18 p.m. The 10-minute public input period begins. Andy Bonner is first.
6:16 p.m. In honor of National Garden Week, Hobgood reads a proclamation honoring the Canton Garden Club.
6:15 p.m. Beresford wants to table action on the stormwater utility credit program and the creation of a reserve fund. His motion dies for lack of a second.
6:13 p.m. Now Beresford has some amendments of his own. He says the agenda includes "council-introduced items."
6:12 p.m. Pat Tanner seconds Rush's motion. The motion passes. Beresford is the dissenting vote again.
6:12 p.m. "We should have the full council around to discuss them," Rush says. Beresford responds and says Bryan has missed five council meetings.
6:09 p.m. Next vote: whether to table new-business discussion items. Among other things, Mayor Gene Hobgood wanted to discuss wastewater treatment plant fines.
6:08 p.m. From Reg Griffin (@reggriffin): "Watching that sausage being made can get ugly, my friend."
6:08 p.m. Council members remove the closing public input period from the agenda. John Beresford is the dissenting vote.
6:06 p.m. There's already disagreement on the council about amending the agenda. This is going to be a long night.
6:05 p.m. Rush wants the discussion-only items under new business to be tabled because council member Bill Bryan is absent.
6:04 p.m. It's at the end of the agenda tonight as well as at the beginning.
6:04 p.m. He also wants to remove item No. 13 (public input) from the agenda.
6:03 p.m. Ward 1 council member Bob Rush wants to amend the agenda and table discussion-only items.