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Proposed Garbage Rate Increase Advances

By Staff | Dec 19, 2018

Sistersville Council has voted to increase garbage rates, with residents expected to pay an additional $3.39 once an ordinance is passed.

Mayor Bill Rice noted the city’s current garbage truck has a broken spring; the truck was taken to Wheeling Spring Services, which had to order the necessary part. As of the Dec. 10 council meeting, the town was still without a garbage truck.

Rice said the town’s anticipated new garbage truck was also in Wheeling. However, the city had to first deal with the issue of acquiring the necessary funds for the purchase. Rice explained he had attempted to communicate with three local banks to acquire a loan for the truck, and one loan officer reported that the city’s garbage rates are too low.

Rice said he had replied that the city was in the process of studying a $2 to $2.50 residential rate increase.

Councilman Greg Cage, who serves on the city’s finance committee, noted the $2 to $2.50 estimate was now incorrect. He then proceeded to explain the finances concerning the city’s garbage department.

Cage noted, based on calculations, the city’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget for the garbage department ended up being $180,000; the city was $6,000 short in funds. However the city is also short on landfill costs, approximately $7,000. Therefore, the city is about $13,000 shy of having a balanced budget for trash collection.

However, factoring in the payment for the city’s new garbage truck would add $19,700 a year to the budget. This would leave the city $33,000 in the red, in terms of garbage – according to Cage.

Cage said the Fiscal Year 2019 target is $209,000; with this in mind, the new base garbage rate for residences is $19.89. Cage said he calculated subsequential business rates by using the residential rate as the base.

Business rates would be as follows: one pick-up per week, $28.93 (from $24); two pick-ups per week, $72.33 (from $60); three pick-ups per week, $150.68 (from $125); daily pick-up, $421.91 (from $350).

Councilman Heinlein asked if the new calculations included a raise for the garbage department employees. Cage noted it did not.

“We’ve got no choice. We’ve got to do something… We need a garbage truck,” Mayor Rice said, adding it would take two months to raise the rates due to the necessity of an ordinance to enact an increase.

“The garbage is piling up,” Rice added.

Heinlein noted that council had previously discussed increasing the garbage rate at the same time as the city’s police fee.

“I know you wanted to do it at the same time, and I’m not trying to be mean, but we’ve got to get this garbage taken care of,” Rice said.

Councilman Phil Konopacky made a recommendation to raise the residential garbage rates by $3.39 to incorporate the cost of the new truck and landfill fees. Konopacky noted the rate is still less than if the city would utilize Waste Management for collection.

Heinlein said that previously the city officials had studied the rates of garbage pick-up for nearby municipalities. Heinlein said Cage’s calculations are “very much in line with those other communities.”

Heinlein said council needs to see that the city’s employees are being paid adequate wages, “garbage in particular, and police.” Heinlein noted, however, that he had nothing further in regards to the particular recommendation on the garbage rates.

The matter of raises for the city’s police officers was discussed by council, including whether or not an ordinance is required. It was also noted to be mindful of overtime costs.

“The first thing we need to do is make them take a vacation, so we aren’t bombarded at the end of the year with paying them all back,” noted councilwoman Bonnie Hizer.

Mayor Rice noted that keeping a full police force would alleviate that issue. He said he advises all departments to use all vacation by the end of the year.

Heinlein responded that it is the department head’s responsibility to oversee that employees schedule vacation, and that there isn’t a shortage of employees as a result.

The mayor noted that in some instances it is the department head who doesn’t take a vacation. He also stated the situation with the police department has been different, because the city pays the officers for the vacation time they do not use. He said the rest of the city employees do not like this arrangement. However, he stated, if Officer Alex Northcraft takes a vacation, he would be paying Chief Rob Haught “time and a half” to cover.

Heinlein reiterated the importance of having a full staff.

Councilman Alex King agreed, stating, “It circles back around to having the people fully staffed and having wages that are competitive.”

Heinlein then reported that the police department has a little more than 50 percent of the budget left for the next 6.5 months.

“With your overtime you had to expend because of lack of staff, are you going to be okay?” Heinlein questioned.

Chief Haught said he hoped so, and he said he might have to move some line items in his budget.

In other council meeting matters, Councilamn Chuck Heinlein requested an update on the city’s application process with FEMA. Mayor Rice noted he had received a message, alerting him that the city needed to apply for an extension. Mayor Rice said he was later told the city was compliant with the time extension. It was noted FEMA funds would probably cover the cost of a water pump, intake, and a pump the city purchased to keep water pumping during flooding. Rice said FEMA would pay for what was lost due to flooding, and damages incurred; however, two mussel surveys are necessary. Rice said the earliest the mussel survey could be completed is May, and the earliest any funds would be received from FEMA would most likely be Fall 2019.

In other matters, during department reports, Councilman Heinlein commended the Sistersville Community Service Organization for “a nice job on the decorations.”

Also, Mayor Rice said he had been contacted by Timmy Meeks, from the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council. Meeks said there was still not approval from the state infrastructure council on funding for the town’s water project. Meeks said a previously scheduled meeting had been postponed due to the shutdown of government offices, due to President George H.W. Bush’s passing.

In another matter, Police Chief Haught reported that Officer Alex Northcraft would like to attend EMT courses and become a certified EMT. Haught said in previous years all officers were certified.

Haught said Northcraft had responded to a structure fire recently, and that, many times, officers are the first to respond to the scene of an emergency.

Haught said the cost of the EMT class is $600, including textbooks and other materials. He said he would pay the costs from his budget. Haught noted he had spoken with one of Tyler County’s commissioners, who expressed that the commission would be open to helping with the expense of the class.

Chief Haught said he is open to as much medical training as the department can “get our hands on.” He noted officers attend an annual Combat Casualty course, which teaches certain aspects of medicine and wound care.

Officer Northcraft would most likely be affiliated with Sistersville General Hospital’s ambulance service, as an EMT.

As to other matters, Councilman Konopacky questioned fireman Mike Northcraft, who attended part of the meeting, in regards to funds the fire department receives.

Konopacky said council was under the impression that the department wouldn’t start receiving funds from a recently passed county levy until July 1. Northcraft noted that the county had a “bit of money banked, and if we need it, it is there.” However, Northcraft noted, the department is not supposed to technically start using the money until Jan. 1.

Konopacky said the levy isn’t effective until July 1; however, Northcraft stated, that the department could start getting some money at the first of the year. He said the money comes in “increments.”

Konopacky said residents are paying fire fees, yet they are also paying levy money.

Rice said he had spoken to fire chief Jason Wayne, as there was talk “around the town.” Rice said other levy money that is dispersed comes through the city – for the park, fire department, and library.

Northcraft said he believes the county will pay the levy funds on an as-needed basis. It was noted that council could speak to SVFD Chief Wayne for further clarification, as he attends the county commission meetings.

Northcraft was also asked if the Sistersville VFD’s ambulance service had cut down on its number of calls. Northcraft confirmed that the department cut down on transfers. He was then questioned if transfers were the “bread and butter” of the ambulance service.

“Not necessarily,” Northcraft responded. He noted that the department had parted ways with its EMS director, but the department is still responding to calls, and the ambulance service is staying.

Heinlein asked if the department is required to have a certification over its ambulance volunteers. Northcraft noted the service can fall under Wetzel County, Sistersville General Hospital, and Middlebourne. “As long as we have a training officer, we don’t have to have a paramedic,” he noted.

Heinlein then noted that he had heard of a recent call when the SVFD had three volunteers to staff the truck. Heinlein questioned if it would be feasible to cross-train the city’s police officers on how to operate the truck’s pumps since the police are often on site with the department.

Northcraft noted the idea would be great. He stated a Pump Operation Class could be taken. “You don’t have to have Firefighter 1 to operate the pump,” he said. It was noted the department has 14 or 15 active members and 30 total members.

As to an anticipated new truck for SVFD, Northcraft said there are recalls on the truck, and although it is predicted the department will receive the truck by Christmas, he personally anticipates a January delivery.

In other news, council approved holiday bonuses for its employees. Part-time employees will receive $150, and full-time employees will receive $275.

Also, council had requested an update on Wheeling Hospital’s purchase of Sistersville General Hospital. The process has been ongoing for two years. Mayor Rice speculated some estimate the matter being finalized in the next four to five months.

Council approved the following payment of bills at its meeting: purchasing card, $22,396.47; city bills, $61,858.49; hospital bill accounts payable, $401,429; hospital payroll, $360,381.

Mayor Rice said the city’s water plant operators were not present for the meeting, due to a continuing education course. Mayor Rice reported that city workers would be flushing hydrants the next morning, and there would also be some patchwork done to the city streets.