Sewer plant improvement package -- without new taxes -- needs voter okay

Friday, August 10, 2007

BERRYVILLE -- Voters in Berryville will be asked to go to the polls in November to approve a bond purchase and refinancing package to pay for sewer plant improvements.

Mayor Tim McKinney proposed the package at Tuesday's city council meeting, saying it would keep the city's debt payment the same, only extend the payback time.

He said there will be no new taxes to finance sewer plant improvements if voters okay the proposal. "It's a refinancing of debt," he explained.

Whatever funds are left over from the sewer plant upgrade will be applied to sewer rehab projects, he said.

McKinney did note that there could be a minimal sewer rate increase to cover operational costs because of higher utility bills. He said there hasn't been a sewer rate increase since the 1980s.

In other business, the council approved, on all three readings, an ordinance waiving competitive bidding for the West Freeman Avenue widening and extension project and awarding the work to Jimmy Jones Excavation.

The city promised to have the work done by the start of the 2008-09 school year and McKinney said the school is in "dire need" of the extended roadway to move construction traffic on and off the campus safely. He said Jimmy Jones already has the publicly-bid contract for the school's West Campus site work and agreed to extend those same per-unit-terms to the city for the West Freeman project.

The council also approved a resolution supporting Kerusso's participation in a tax back program for a planned expansion project.

East College Avenue resident Deanna Palmer spoke at the meeting, saying she heard the city planned to widen East College and put in a sidewalk, along its stretch between Springfield and Main streets. She proposed a one-way street instead with sidewalk space allotted in the existing roadway.

McKinney said he was afraid if it were a one-way street, traffic would be diverted to other nearby narrow streets.

He said he's been in discussion with landowners along the roadway because it's a dangerous situation with the number of school kids walking the route.

He proposed a sidewalk on the north side of the street, requiring a four-or-five-foot easement.

"If landowners agree, we'll go ahead with the sidewalk and get the kids off the street," he said.

Shawn Mitchell, the sole resident to attend all council meetings, also spoke to the council about the unsightly warning he received regarding overgrown shrubs on his East College property.

Mitchell said he liked the overgrowth for its privacy but would do whatever the city required.

McKinney agreed that a fence row affords privacy, but also harbors skunks, possums and other critters.

McKinney said he would meet with Mitchell and the building inspector to determine precisely what needs to be done.

Alderman Joel Gibson noted that the city tries to serve all its citizens with fairness, no matter who they are.

The council gave the go-ahead to Circle the Square organizers to use the town square for this Saturday's event, and for the next Circle the Square in September. They also approved signage.

On a final note, McKinney complimented the young people who hang out on the town square for picking up trash, and the skate park kids for doing the same, suggesting adults follow suit and pick up trash, even when it's not their own.

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