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Budget workshop goes into day 4
Garbage, dry-trash fee hikes proposed
budget workshop
City leaders discuss proposed budget for each city department during the fourth day of the budget workshop for fiscal year 2015. - photo by Randy C.Murray

City leaders are proposing what they call small increases in fees for garbage and dry-trash collection, as well as storm-water runoff.

During day four of budget workshops Monday, leaders reviewed revenue and expenditures for public buses, outside agencies, water-sewer, solid waste and storm water for the coming year.

City Manager Billy Edwards said the city is proposing increases in solid-waste fees for garbage collection and dry-trash pick-up. He said it is needed to balance the solid-waste fund budget.

For a single-family customer with one poly cart, the increase per garbage collection would be 35 cents. For dry-trash pick-up, it would be 15 cents, he said.

A rate change also is recommended for storm-water runoff. Edwards explained that the more square-footage of pavement and concrete on residential or commercial property, the more water runs into the city’s drainage system.

The rate-increase proposed would be 36 cents for small residential properties and $1.02 for large residential properties.

Commercial and multi-unit properties would see a 60-cent increase, he said.

Theodis Jackson, general manager for Liberty Transit Authority contractor Transdev, formerly Veolia Transdev, met with council members, Mayor Jim Thomas, Edwards, Assistant City Manager Ken Howard, and Chief Financial Officer Kim Ryon as they picked through the transit system’s proposed budget.

Among items discussed was ridership, which several councilmen said appeared to be increasing. Thomas confirmed it is up from last year.

Also discussed were bus-stop shelters. Edwards said the city bought 15 pre-fab shelters, but only four have been installed at stops. Jackson said they are monitoring stops to see which ones have the most people waiting.

Five shelters are to be installed next year, he said.

“If we put a shelter in on private property, we have to first have an easement,” Thomas said, responding to a question, then changing the subject to bus maintenance. “All our buses have at least 80,000 miles on them, though some have over 100,000. What we’re going to do is switch out the buses with lower miles.”

He said the buses can get up to 400,000 miles before they would have to be replaced. The buses, which are maintained by public-works contractor CH2MHILL, are not all on the road at one time, he explained.

Outside-agency expenditures examined included record retention, the library, the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, the city’s portion for Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, welcome center for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Liberty County Development Authority and MidCoast Regional Airport. Except for the HDDA, there were no revenues generated by outside agencies.

One point of contention was $8,500 recommended for redesign of the HDDA website. Ryon said the previous website contract did not allow for updates. Councilman Keith Jenkins asked who would review the new contract to ensure that didn’t happen again.

“I assure you, as a member sitting on the (HDDA) board, I’ll take a look at any new contract to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Thomas said.

Another issue regarding outside agencies was raises for LCPC employees. Ryon explained that LCPC is funded by the city, county and other municipalities. She said the LCPC’s original proposal had to be revised when commissioners said the county could not afford to increase its portion from last ear.

She said LCPC Director Jeff Ricketson and his staff went through the budget, cutting other areas to find money to provide merit raises.

The greater part of the four-hour session was spent on water-sewer and solid waste.

Guan Ellis, CH2MHILL director, was available to answer questions. Councilman Jason Floyd asked the first question after reading that water fees were down from 2013.

“It seems like they’re building more and more houses, but the (water fees) numbers don’t reflect an increase in users,” Floyd said. “Are we actually seeing an increase in usage?”

Ryon confirmed there was increase in users, but that water usage is down due to a lot of factors. Thomas said one of the factors was the recent rain, which increases ground-water levels and decreases the need for watering lawns.

Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier suggested water conservation was probably a major factor contributing to lower water usage. Thomas then noted the city’s revenues include an increase from reuse-water fees, which he said supports Georgia’s water-conservation program and will help the city when the state looks at its water-aquifer allocations.

Following Monday’s meeting, Edwards and Ryon said they hoped to present a balanced-budget proposal during the final workshop next Monday.

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