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Aldermen vote to change controversial utility policy

Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 8:58 am

After hearing complaints from local landlords for the past few months since adopting a new “property owners only” utility deposit policy, the City of Vandalia’s Board of Aldermen revisited the change during last week’s board meeting.
The City of Vandalia’s staff drafted a policy based on information provided by the landlords.
The measure includes:
• Raising renter deposits to $300
• Requirement for landlords and renters to disclose persons living in the unit
• No renters to have delinquent bills
• Allow the utilities to be only in the landlord’s name if there are two or more delinquencies at that particular unit until those delinquencies are paid.
It was noted that the staff believed the new policy could reduce bad debts but should be considered for a trial period of one to three years.
Staff also recommended that if the new policy failed to dramatically reduce bad debts, then the “property owners only” policy could be implemented.
The new utility policy passed with aldermen Larry Holt and John Weiser opposing the change.
MGT Bid Awarded
According to the meeting minutes, Chief Water Plant Operator Darren Berry told the group that there were two bidders for the rebid project. The apparent low bidder is Ozark Applicators of Van Buren, Missouri, with a bid amount of $517,600 and they were awarded the bid.
The project is anticipated for the spring/summer, and includes roof replacement, mixing system, and the entire tank will be painted inside and out. A separate item proposing increasing the water surcharge appears on this council agenda.
Capital Water
City Administrator Alan Winders told the group that funds must be raised to repair the million gallon tank.
The capital surcharge is the recommended method as the charges are based strictly on usage (the base charge is not being adjusted). Additionally, the funds are restricted to the stated uses and accounting for these funds is very transparent.
The MGT project must be completed in order to ensure an adequate water supply for the community.  Increasing the water surcharge by this amount should allow the city to finance the cost of the project “in house” and repay the fund in four to five years. This will avoid financing costs altogether.
All funds collected via the capital surcharge can only be used to fund capital costs specifically approved by the council. Additionally, all funds must be accounted for separately.
All aldermen but Larry Shaw voted “Yes” for the surcharge fee increase.
Power Plant
Utilities Superintendent Aaron Rentfro told the group that due to ever-tightening regulations, cost of repairs and not being able to receive generation credits, the city should start disposing of the diesel generators, generator switch gear, and cooling towers.  Rentfro said his department will work to get the highest price possible for the equipment whether it is sold to a parts dealer or salvage yard.
All demo/removal will not and should not interfere with other projects.
Aldermen approved the measure.
Fiscal Year
A measure was approved to adopt the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 appropriations for the city while levels were set for revenues and expenditures for the fiscal year starting March 1, 2015.
Winders presented the 2015-16 budget.
(More on the budget to appear in the February 25 issue of The Vandalia Leader)