An overall total 5% utility rate was approved by the Belleville City Council during its regular meeting July 2, with Mayor Kerreen Conley abstaining.
Mayor Conley asked to abstain because the sewer rates are in her department at Wayne County. She said the cost for sewer treatment has gone up because flow has gone down.
The new charge went into effect July 1.
A chart, presented to the council, shows that for 2012-13, the water rate will go up to $6.74, from the previous $6.19. The Detroit increase was 9%.
The sewer rate went up from $6.34 to $6.38, following a 1% increase from the county.
The chart showed a total utility rate of $13.12, up from $12.53, for a 5% increase.
Councilman Brian Blackburn told the audience in the city council chambers that the city is “just passing it through,” referring to increases from the City of Detroit on the water and Wayne County on the sewage treatment.
Former councilman, George Chedraue, said from the audience that Detroit is raising its water rates just 7%.
Mayor Conley said the city has not received anything from Detroit saying the increase is less than 9%. That’s the amount the city has in writing from Detroit.
“I talked to the city [Detroi] and they said they haven’t decided,” Chedraue said, adding, “in the last five years water has increased 50%.”
“In the last few years, Detroit rates have risen significantly,” said Mayor Conley.
Resident Mike Renaud said from the audience that the city has moved a lot of costs out of the general fund to take some costs out of the water and sewer budgets.
He said Main Street was redone, with new infrastructure, and “Keith’s and Diana’s time hadn’t gone done at all,” despite the new water and sewer pipes.
He referred to City Manger Diana Kollmeyer and DPS Director Keith Boc.
City Manager Kollmeyer said that there is a lot of infrastructure besides the one Main Street water line.
“There are always going to be employee-associated costs,” Kollmeyer said, adding the system is supposed to pay its own way.
Chedraue said 50% of Boc’s salary is from the water department budget. He said he knows it’s hard to keep track, but, “Keith doesn’t spend half of his time on the water department.
“Instead of lowering something else, you just shift [the cost] to the water department and we’re stuck with it,” Chedraue said.
“… You keep pushing Keith’s and Diana’s pay to the water department … At what time will Keith and Diana be 100% funded by the water department? … When only doing 5% of the work?” Chedraue asked.
Mayor Conley said until anyone walks in either one of their shoes to see what they do, they should not criticize them.
She said the city is trying to track and record times spent on projects by employees so next year at budget time they’ll have a baseline.
“There is an element of time spent,” Conley said. “Next year we’ll have a good idea” of how much is spent where.
In other business at the July 2 meeting, the council:
• Heard a glowing report on the Cruisin’ on the Bayou Car Show, held each Monday afternoon on Main Street. There were 104 cars on June 4, a rainout June 11, 92 cars on June 18, a possible 210 cars by 8 p.m. on June 25, and 138 by meeting time on July 2. There was discussion about expanding the area used for parking as the show grows. Also, local restaurants will be asked to set up steam tables with simple hot dogs and hamburgers for the crowd. The car show promoters were praised for bringing so many new people into Belleville. “I think you’ve done a great job. Thank you,” Mayor Conley said on behalf of the council;
• Approved Pamela Dalton’s request to solicit donations at Five Points (and possibly Main/High) for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” annual fund raiser from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 18 and 19. As a Team Captain of the Alzheimer’s Association main fund-raising event, her team has donated over $56,000 to the association over the past 12 years;
• Opened three sealed bids for the Newspaper of Record service for the City of Belleville and referred them to the administration for a recommendation at the next meeting. Bids were $19.95 per column from Heritage Newspapers, $5 per column inch from the Belleville-Area Independent, and $3.99 per column inch for the Belleville Lake Current;
• After a lengthy discussion, approved letting the Fire Department apply for Assistance to Firefighters Grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which were due to be turned in on July 6, after being reviewed by the city manager. The grants were broken into three motions: 16, 800 MHz radios (cost about $37,500) with a 20% match by the city; 11 sets of turnout gear (at about $2,000 each) with 10% match by the city; and fire truck not to exceed $275,000 totally, with a 5% match by the city. It is hoped that 24-year-old Engine 451 can be sold to make enough for the city’s fire engine match. Councilman Blackburn, a paid-per-call fire fighter, abstained from the votes. Mayor Conley and other members of the agreed they would have liked to see a draft of the application and more details, since they felt they were put in an awkward position without the ability to review the grant applications before they had to be submitted. Fire Chief Brian Loranger apologized, saying this was the first time he did anything like this application;
• Approved amending the 2012-13 budget to include an outlay from the last budget year to use $3,250 to “repurpose” the Humvee for the fire department to use as a brush truck. (The cost includes painting it red, since Chief Loranger said in its present camouflage paint, he might lose it in the brush.) Chief Loranger said Van Buren Township had a brush fire earlier that afternoon and called Belleville for mutual aid. Belleville couldn’t get its old brush truck started, so the city couldn’t help. Councilman Blackburn did not abstain from the vote, saying he would not personally benefit from this project;
• Also amended the 2012-13 budget to include $9,500 for the addition of a retired police officer to the city’s insurance coverage effective July 1, for a single police with no employee contribution. The two amendments decrease the General Fund fund balance by $12,750, with an expected fund balance of $422,044 on June 30, 2013;
• Heard City Manager Kollmeyer note that the skate park has been in the city’s possession for 10 years now and she will come back to the council with a recommendation. She said she has been getting calls from people in the community who want the skate park to stay; and
• Approved $118,284.95 in accounts payable and the following departmental purchases in excess of $500: to John Deere Landscapes, $675 for an irrigation pump at Doane’s Landing (DDA); and to R. Dixon Lawn Service, $570 for grass cutting of empty lots.