Marion Council approves rate hike

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More than a month’s worth of debate came to a close Monday night in Marion as the City Council approved an increase in residential water bills.

“We all looked at this thing and this was the best we could come up with,” Marion mayor Anthony J. Long said before the Council’s vote. “Nobody out there wants their water bill to go up. It’s going to be $10.22 across the board. Everybody’s bill is going to go up $10.22. It’s nothing but what it takes us to run the water.”

Long then asked the Council for a motion to approve the ordinance establishing the new, higher rates. That motion was provided by Councilman Spencer Hogue and was seconded by Corin Harrison.

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The ordinance’s passage was narrow, however. After a voice vote failed to produce a clear decision, a vote by roll call was taken, with councilmen Hogue, Harrison, and Brandon Taylor voting in favor and councilmen Willie Jackson and James Hollis voting against. The motion carried 3 to 2 and the ordinance is now on the city books.

Afterwards, a visibly relieved Long said he was happy Marion and the Council could move forward.

“I’m very happy we got this thing passed,” he said.

The hike in Marion’s water rates, the first for the city since 1997, has been generating opposition since news of its consideration first broke. Residents have voiced their anger in both council meetings and at a public hearing on the issue last Thursday night, at which Perry County Commissioner and prominent Marion resident Albert Turner, Jr. proposed the Council cut their budget elsewhere or find ways to lower the city’s high water treatment costs.

But, perhaps tired of the arguments and resigned to the Council’s vote, that opposition was conspicuous by its absence at the Council meeting Monday night. Aside from a few grumblings from the residents in attendance when the ordinance passed, signs of anger at the Council’s decision were absent from the meeting room. And with Long’s brief statement excepted, there was little-to-no discussion amongst the Council before the vote.

Tuesday morning, Turner expressed disappointment with the Council’s decision but was pleased the Council had not stuck with an earlier plan to raise rates by a more substantial amount.

“It’s $10 a month, but 10 is still better than 30,” he said.

According to Council documents released at the public hearing, the hike is necessary to offset an approximate $15,000 a month deficit currently created by the city’s water service. The $10 increase, multiplied by Marion’s approximately1500 water customers, will erase the deficit.

In other news from the Council meeting:

* The city picked up a quick $20,000 by selling a long section of gas pipe owned by the city to the gas company currently releasing it for operations. The $20,000 represents an increase over the city attorney’s initial recommendation of a $10,000 bid during the Council’s February meeting.

* A cell phone company is seeking to extend and expand on their current lease in an effort to gain more tower space for their Marion tower. The expansion will lead to more antennas and better coverage, according to the proposal, which calls for a 10-year lease. The Council put off a vote until their next meeting to review the proposal.