LANCASTER — More bad news regarding the sewer line issues on West Maple Avenue was heard during Monday night’s Lancaster City Council meeting.
According to Mayor Brenda Powers, another $25,000 is needed to pay for the remaining work for the line, which includes replacing a fifth manhole.
During the meeting, Powers revisited the idea of taking out a loan from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority to cover the costs of the project. She said the city could take $187,000, out in a loan with a 0.95 interest rate, and follow a plan for 20 years to repay at about $856 a month.
“We would be looking at a 1.9 percent increase in (sewer) rates, just to cover the loan,” Councilman Bret Baierlein said.
Powers stressed the city had the ability to cover the cost of the loan, according to conversations with the city’s accountant.
“My question is, can the citizens of Lancaster afford it?” questioned Councilman Ronny Baker, adding this could be putting an unfair burden on the citizens. “You’ve got 65-68 percent of people in Lancaster that are fixed income people.”
“I will not vote for this,” Councilman Chris Davis said. He stressed having to raise the sewer rates for this loan, on top of what the council already is anticipating because of the current year’s breakdowns, would be unfair to the residents of Lancaster. Early estimates from council members speculate the rates could be raised by two percent.
Mayor Powers encouraged them to reconsider as the 0.95 percent interest rate was unlikely to be seen again, fearing another break could deplete the funds that were saved by the current and former councils in the form of Certificates of Deposit, referring to the CDs as “Mayor Moss’s money.”
“It’s the people of Lancaster’s money,” Baierlein said, stressing he would rather take the funds from the CDs, which he said would lessen the amount of a future rate increase as well as omit paying interest on a loan.
“What’s the point of having a rainy day fund, if it rains and you go out with a credit card and buy a new umbrella?” Baierlein said.
The council voted to take the needed funds from the CDs, which add up to about $240,000 for the sewer work.
Baierlein said if certain adjustments were made regarding repositioning city employees, he and other council members believe it could possibly avoid having to raise the rates at all.
SO YOU KNOW
The discussion during Monday night’s Lancaster City Council meeting turned from financing the remaining requirements of the sewer project to the sewer department’s daily operational budget, which has been in the red for the past few months. The budget from February shows the department beginning to get back on task, due in part to the transferring of funds to balance it. Councilman Brett Baierlein had proposed suggestions to the council and the mayor at previous meetings of ways to cuts costs, including transferring employees around.
“Our operational budget will be fine,” Mayor Brenda Powers said, after stating she was “ ... taking care of the problems.”
The council began questioning Powers’ plan, and asked who was overseeing the operations at the sewer plant since the departure of Millard Rose, former supervisor, in February.
Powers encouraged members to “leave her alone.”
“Are we hiring a new person in the sewer department?” Baierlein asked.
The mayor responded with “No,” and told him that he “asked too many questions.”
“I have an office that’s open from 8:30 to 12:30,” she said, encouraging him and others to stop by. Powers added that they could call or come by her house and she would be happy to discuss the matter with them then.