By Leigh Morris
For the Star-Gazette
Dripping faucets may become a little more costly as a result of action taken by the Virginia City Council to hike water rates by 23 percent for usage beyond the monthly minimum of $33 for the first 2,000 gallons.
The ordinance, which received first reading approval on a 3-2 vote, would raise the rate from $6.50 to $8.00 for every 1,000 gallons of water used each month above the first 2,000. It is anticipated the increase will generate an additional $5,000 in revenue per month.
City Treasurer Kevin Velten told the council that monthly water revenue is running about $8,000 to $10,000 below the budget estimate. He said water usage has fallen approximately 22 percent since 2011. He attributed most of this unexpected drop to conservation actions taken by customers.
Velten estimated that about half of the city’s residential customers use no more than 2,000 gallons of water per month and therefore will not be affected by the proposed rate increase.
Since the increase only will generate $5,000 of the up to $10,000 monthly shortfall, Velten said he will meet with Public Works Director Randy McClure to explore ways to further cut operating costs.
Aldermen David Petefish (3rd Ward) and Chris Behrends (2nd Ward) voted against the ordinance. Aldermen Steve Clark (1st Ward), Dale Bell (2nd Ward) and Rickey Cox (3rd Ward) all voted in favor. Alderman Susan Carson (1st Ward) was absent.
The ordinance will be considered for final action at the Oct. 14 City Council meeting.
Mayor Steve Sudbrink postponed until Oct. 16 a final vote on an ordinance that limits grass height to six inches. Residents also would be given two hours to remove grass and leaves they blow into the street with their mowers.
Sudbrink acted because Carson is on vacation. The mayor said he wanted all council members to have an opportunity to vote on the controversial proposal. It won first reading approval on a 4-3 tally with Sudbrink casting a rare tie-breaking vote.
Council members expressed their satisfaction when Police Chief Tom Osmer reported that residential burglaries have come to a halt since he arrested a suspect in August. Austin Garrett has been charged with felony burglary and is being held in the Sangamon County Jail. Osmer said Garrett also faces felony charges filed by Sangamon County.
In discussion, Sudbrink made it clear he wants the city to take a tougher stance on derelict properties. He suggested the city may want to place liens on such properties that would force a sale to pay demolition costs. Another possibility would be to acquire properties through delinquent tax sales. This issue will be further explored at the Oct. 16 council session.