Palmyra readies for utility rate hike
By Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer
The Palmyra Town Council introduced an ordinance outlining proposed water and sewer rate increases at its regular monthly council and utility board meeting last month.
The council, at its Oct. 28 meeting, voted for town attorney Adam Burkhardt to draft the ordinance. The proposed language would amend the town’s schedule of utility rates and charges to include a 15% increase for water and 8% for sewer (not all water customers are connected to the town’s sewer system). The town has been paying higher water rates from supplier Ramsey Water Co. for nearly two years. Its initial plan to offset those costs included phasing in the 15% increase over two years (in 2020 and 2021) but those increases were shelved due to COVID-19.
After being formally introduced and reviewed by council members at the Nov. 17 meeting, the proposal will require advertisement as well as public hearings for discussion with residents and other rate-payers.
Burkhardt said the introduction was the initial requirement for the process to implement an increase. He further recommended the town consider scheduling a public hearing at its second meeting in January 2022.
The council (Councilwoman Christall Ingle was absent) took no action on the ordinance.
Later, during the utility board’s meeting, Burkhardt explained the utility board’s authority and noted why, in his view, it would likewise need to take no further action at this time, following its prior decisions to move forward.
“I think the utility board has already recommended the just rates and charges to the town council,” Burkhardt said.
In another matter, the council heard from residents regarding an issue discovered following a paving project.
Buck Jackson addressed the council and noted the resurfacing did not allow for proper slope to the driveway at 490 Avery St., resulting in a significant drop-off. Jackson, who shared pictures of the drop-off, said the situation could be hazardous to vehicles.
Temporary repairs, such as gravel, were requested and discussed.
Town council president Virginia (Jenny) Kirkham said the town’s paving work was completed for the year, but it would be happy to revisit the matter in the spring.
“After the winter, we’ll have to re-evaluate and see what you need,” Kirkham said.
“We’ll get back to you with information on making a determination on what, if anything, the town should do,” Councilman Wyman (Lee) Childers added.
The council also discussed options for sidewalk repair at the town’s Community Center. At the Oct. 28 meeting, Tim Combs, the town’s water superintendent, reported he would speak with a contractor for an estimate, but he noted at the November meeting that the contractor had not been able to view it.
Town employees and the council discussed some possibilities for completing the sidewalk repair, to which Childers said that while he thought there was some merit, he was reluctant to proceed without a quote from a professional.
“My hesitation is the cost of failure,” Childers said.
Childers recommended contacting other contractors and ideally obtaining two estimates for the work.
In the interim, the council agreed the impacted area should be taped off and barricaded until the issues are addressed.
“I would advise the town to repair that without delay,” Burkhardt said.
As part of her report, Clerk-Treasurer Debra Jones provided the council a summary of necessary transfers. She noted these are done annually as part of the town’s year-end financial reconciliation.
Transfers were made to several accounts, including community center, water and sewer.
The council voted 2-0 to allow the transfers, as detailed by Jones.
“This is just getting our appropriations in balance,” Jones said.
The council also revisited discussion of its snow removal policy, for which it tabled any action at the Oct. 28 meeting. Kirkham and Ingle made that decision, as Childers was not present at the meeting and previously expressed wishes to be involved in that process.
The town would likely need to determine the scope of services it would like a snow removal contractor to provide. Examples would be at what minimum depth does removal begin and under which circumstances would scraping occur, as opposed to salting.
Childers and Kirkham again chose to table any action.
“I’ll come up with some ideas,” Childers said.
In other business, the town council and utilities board:
• Voted to pay invoices for gloves for town employees and also to only return $90 of a $100 deposit to a community center renter after several articles were not accounted for during the final check.
• Agreed it would continue to meet twice monthly in 2022. The second and last Thursdays, at 7 p.m., will remain the meeting days. Jones said she would prepare the 2022 schedule and present at the next meeting, which will be Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. at the town hall.
• Tabled a vote on the 2022 salary ordinance. Although the council could act with two members present, the members wished to address when Ingle could be part of the conversation as well.
• Discussed a request from Josh Dean for use of a roadway for access to property he owns on the town’s south side. Burkhardt agreed to look further into the matter.
• Received a report from the marshal’s department indicating reserve officers worked 113 hours in October. The department also learned it will receive a grant for bulletproof vests. The council also continued discussion of upgrading vehicles in the marshal’s fleet. Childers mentioned he would be in favor of looking at purchasing a good, used vehicle.
• Reviewed a refund request from water customer Edward Pruitt. Pruitt noted multiple issues, some having occurred several years ago. Due to the age of the matters in question, the town agreed it would be difficult to find adequate factual information on which to base any decision and opted to take no further action.
• Approved a purchase order to replenish stock for the water and sewer departments and also a bid from Premier Ag of Corydon to supply the town with off-road diesel fuel at a cost of $2.85 per gallon.