West Alexandria Council discusses utility rate increases

By Nathan Hoskins - [email protected]west.com

WEST ALEXANDRIA — West Alexandria Village Council met on Monday, Oct. 17, and discussed the approval of an amendment to an ordinance regarding stationary vehicles in alleyways, police department updates, and water and sewer rate increases.

Under ordinance 452.11, which addresses parking in alleys and narrow streets in West Alexandria, “No person shall stop, stand or park any vehicle upon a street, other than an alley, in such a manner or under such conditions as to leave available less than ten feet of the width of the roadway for free movement of vehicular traffic, except that a driver may stop temporarily during the actual loading or unloading of passengers or when directed to by a police officer or traffic control signal. Except as otherwise provided by law, no person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle within an alley except while actually loading and unloading, and then only for a period not to exceed 30 minutes.”

Council reviewed and discussed an amendment to the ordinance which would see the 30-minute time period extended to 24-hours.

“A lot of people are parking in the alleys because that’s where they’ve been parking for years. The reason we’re going with 24 is because it allows the people to continue to park there, however within that 24-hour period they’re going to work the next morning. So, their vehicles are going to be moved,” explained Police Chief Stevens.

Stevens elaborated, the idea of the ordinance is to prevent vehicles from becoming stationary and blocking alleyways to traffic, including emergency response vehicles which often require more clearance. Stevens said there are numerous vehicles parked in alleyways around the village which do not regularly move.

However, council came to the decision to disregard the amendment, and tabled further discussion for an unannounced date.

Council also discussed proposed water and sewer rate increases.

“Basically, we crunched a bunch of numbers and with the way everything is increasing, for us to stay where we need to be and be able to maintain the water and sewer facilities up to the high standards, we got to do an increase,” said Village Administrator Adam Beneke.

The current base rate for water is $29.69, however with the proposed ordinance, the water rate would increase to $34.14 as a base rate, which would double the original rate for residents outside of the village, according to members of council. In addition, there would be an extra $3.86 per thousand gallons of use.

“The water increase actually, believe it or not, is not enough to cover it. It’s just something we’re going to have to increase,” stated council member Geoff Justice.

Justice explained, from January to September of 2022, the projected expenses for the water system were $505,354.79, while revenue for the same time frame were only $350,699, leaving $152,685 as a deficit.

“So let me ask you this, in 2001 we actually had a $103,000 surplus, and obviously we had some big issues that occurred. So, you’re projecting we’re going to have big issues every year?” questioned council member Dan Utsinger.

Justice denied they projected serious issues for every year forward, but cautioned that without updates and maintenance to the water system, there will likely be one yearly incident of significant expense.

Justice estimated the monthly cost for the water system in 2021 was roughly $21,783, and has increased to $42,112 in 2022.

Both the sewer and water rate ordinances proposed by members of council are at a 15 percent increase, an amount for which council members Zach Shafer and Utsinger expressed their disapproval.

There have been suggestions for a 1 percent or 3 percent increase every year, however, council feels the budget would be too far depleted to even fulfill payroll should they pursue any increase lower than 15 percent at present.

Shafer expressed his concern that, should these increases be approved, it could cause “houses to go up for sale” in West Alexandria. Shafer suggested it may be time for the village to look for other methods to decrease expenditures, such as cutting back on village staff and new hires.

Regardless of sentiments expressed against the ordinance, all members of council voted to approve the first of three public readings, to be read at three separate council meetings. This does not put the increase into immediate effect, but opens the door to further discussion. Council voted to table discussion of sewer rate increases for a future meeting.

In other business:

• Chief Stevens requested permission to appoint one of his staff members to part-time officer, which council approved. Stevens also thanked American Legion Post 322 for the donation of a flag pole for the new police station.

• Council agreed to consider and potentially approve a request from Beneke to move one part-time employee to full-time, exceeding no more than 40-hours a week.

• Council requested Chief Stevens and the West Alexandria Police Department put more pressure on ATVs driving through fields at reckless speeds.

• Council called a work session for Monday, Nov. 21, at 5:30 p.m., to discuss upcoming levies, to be held at 8 Marty Lane in the EMS building.

West Alexandria Village Council meetings are public meetings held on the third Monday each month, at 7 p.m., at 8 Marty Lane in the EMS building.

By Nathan Hoskins

[email protected]

Reach Nathan Hoskins at 937-683-4057 and follow on Twitter @NathanHoskins13.

Reach Nathan Hoskins at 937-683-4057 and follow on Twitter @NathanHoskins13.