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Council to discuss water rates, road funding

Raising rates will be on tap at the Ashland City Council as they meet on Tuesday evening — literally on tap as rate increases will go in part to pay for water.

According to Public Works Director Mike Faught, a public hearing about increasing rates will focus on water, sewer, street and storm drain fees.

In combination, the rate increases would cost the average household roughly $5.83 per month, according to Faught. Such a resident would go from paying roughly $52 per month in these fees to more than $56 next year.

The arguments for raising fees as outlined by city staff would be to handle day-to-day operations and to pay for capital projects, such as a new water treatment plant, re-piping, increased pumping capacity and the replacement of aging pipes.

In addition, Faught says the transportation utility fee could be raised by 2.7 percent, allowing the city of Ashland to fix backlogged street maintenance on major streets throughout the city. Some $13 million dollars in repairs and resurfacing have been identified.

Earlier discussions centered around using excess revenue from the food and beverage tax to repair roads since part of the original amount set aside for upgrading sewage treatment is no longer needed. Councilors decided that before spending the tax on upgrading roads they would send it to citizens for a vote.

It’s unclear if this proposed increase would be in addition to diverting food and beverage tax money or if it would replace that idea. 

Money for street maintenance comes from state gas taxes, transportation utility fees, state and federal grants, system development charges and franchise fees. The state gas tax and transportation utility fees are primarily used to fund the day-to-day operations, debt service and some capital projects like sidewalk replacements. The state gas tax, according to Faught, has not kept pace with inflation and is inadequate to keep up with the work that needs to be done on streets and infrastructure.

If approved, the new rates would become effective July 1.

The council is also being asked to approve a mural project on the west side of the building housing the Sesame Asian Kitchen restaurant facing Calle Guanajuato and waive the fees in excess of $1,000. The Art Commission requested the waiver since it is public art.

Guanajuato artist Laura Rangel Villasenor, known professionally as Loreta, would paint the concept with the town’s prominent features.

If councilors approve the mural it will go back to the art commission for final steps prior to being painted. 

The meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. in the Ashland City Council chamber, 1175 East Main St. Proceedings are cablecast live on Channel 9 (or 180) and streamed online at rvtv.sou.edu.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at akinsj@sou.edu and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.