Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1021160

Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 25, 2014

Land sale to offset rate hike discussed

Washington City Council approves increases on water, sewer and garbage fees
By David Hotle | Jun 20, 2013
The land to accommodate the proposed Wellness Park in Washington is now owned by the city and being leased as farm land.

The Washington City Council approved raising water and sewer rates as had been discussed during the budgeting for this year, and increased the cost of garbage stickers to compensate for the increased price.
City administrator Brent Hinson said that the base price of water is remaining the same and increases are based on the amount of usage. The sewer rates are increasing 5 percent on usage. Garbage sticker price will increase from $1.50 to $1.75. Yearly garbage can stickers will increase from $75 to $85. The monthly charge was also increased by $1.50 from $4.35 to $5.85.
“We have a new garbage contract that is about $70,000 more expensive per year,” Hinson said. “There is pain here, but we are spreading the pain around as much as we can and trying to keep it from hitting in one area hugely.”
He said that Luke Sanitation had offered a two-year extension at a cost of $300,000 per year, up from $244,000 per year. The city council had voted to bid out the garbage contract. Luke’s won the bid at a cost of $315,000 per year.
During discussion, council member Bob Shellmyer recommended that the city sell the farmland it owns outside of town. Plans have been made for the land to be used for a wellness park. He said that several people in his district had recommended to him that the land be sold. The land is currently being rented for agricultural use.
“The point is we are raising — again — the taxpayers’ costs,” he said. “We are reaching into their purses and taking from them when we have got land sitting out there at a prime time to move it.”
Shellmyer said that there is a soccer field near where he lives that hasn’t been used this year. He also said that there are several walking tracks in the area. He said the city doesn’t need to be “land barons.”
Hinson discouraged selling the land to offset cost increases, saying the sale would be one-time revenue and the cost increases would be ongoing.
Council member Bob Shepherd said that the council had been trying to make programs reflect what they cost. He said that garbage stickers also encourage people to recycle. The Department of Natural Resources has mandated that Washington must lower its tipping amount at the area landfill.  
Council member Mark Kendall said he didn’t believe the city should sell the land.
“That land is the future,” he said. “If you read the comprehensive plan it is in there repeatedly to expand our park space.”
He said that he would vote for the increases. He also said that it would not be a popular decision, but that he thought it was a responsible decision.
Council member Fred Stark said that he believed Shellmyer was “grandstanding.” Shellmyer said that he was trying to save the taxpayers’ money.
“That’s not grandstanding; that is good business sense,” Shellmyer said.
Stark said that Shellmyer had proposed the city go out for bids on the garbage contract, which resulted in a more expensive contract.
Hinson said a funding feasibility study is currently being done on the park, in which a consultant is surveying 60 potential donors to the park. A joint study between the Washington Community Y, the Wellness Park Committee and Riverside’s potential Y satellite is also ongoing. A conceptual design is also being finalized, Hinson said.
“Big projects don’t always move fast,” he said.
The council also:
• heard a request to hold an outdoor event at the Wagon Wheel;
• approved a Washington Public Library mini-grant application;
• approved a Washington Cable Access TV Commission mini-grant application;
• held a public hearing on the West Tyler Street paving project. After receiving no public comment, the project was let out for a bid;
• approved the second reading of the downtown urban renewal plan. Shellmyer opposed the motion; and
• approved the salaries for appointed officers and employees for the next fiscal year.

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