Budget matters prevail at Albemarle meeting

Published 2:39 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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A number of matters relating to the adoption of the 2024-25 Albemarle municipal budget led to lengthy discussion at the May 20 meeting of Albemarle City Council.

Several changes and additions were made to the budget proposed at Council’s May 6 meeting by Interim City Manager Darren Rhodes. These included:

• Approval of a $6,000 match of funds provided by Stanly County to Gateway of Hope to assist with addiction recovery for individuals in the city. This appropriation would be made on a one year trial basis and would be contingent on Stanly County also participating.

• Approval to purchase a trailer-mounted bank of portable restrooms for use at special events and large gatherings.

• Approval of a 1% match of city employees’ 401(k) contributions, beginning Jan. 1, 2025.

In addition, the council approved replacement of ballfield lights and poles at Rock Creek Park and Don Montgomery Park. This project would not be included in the new fiscal year budget, but would be funded through a separate project budget to be established at a future date during the 2024-25 fiscal year.

Public Utilities Director Jay Voyles recommended to council members that the sewer rate remain unchanged for the coming fiscal year, however, he noted that a comprehensive utility rate study is included in the new budget, and expressed the need for the city to review how it determines sewer rates for its residential and business customers.

“Our current (sewer) rates are ‘one size fits all,’ ” Voyles said. “Everyone pays the same, residence or business, and this creates some problems.”

Voyles noted that under the city’s current fixed rate structure, an increase in the rate burdens residential and other low-volume users.

“A medium or high volume user won’t even notice the change,” he said.

However, if rates were based solely on volume of usage, the opposite will occur, according to Voyles.

“A volumetric increase causes similar strife among high volume users,” he said.

Council voted unanimously to keep the current sewer rate for the 2024-25 budget year, and to consider the results of the comprehensive utility rate study in setting future fees.

Public Works Director Ross Holshouser presented a summary of a new arrangement set to begin on July 1 regarding collection of residential garbage, recycling, limb and loose leaf collection, yard waste collection and collection of white goods. Under this arrangement, the responsibilities of limb and loose leaf collection, yard waste collection and white goods collection will no longer be handled by Waste Management, Inc. This comes following numerous public complaints regarding the contractor’s past performance in these matters.

However, collection of residential garbage and recycling will continue to be the responsibility of Waste Management.

“We issued a RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to all potential service providers,” said Holshouser, “but only two (Republic Services and Waste Management) responded.”

“Republic Services did not meet the required service levels that we would need,” he noted.

Holshouser emphasized that the new contract with Waste Management is for two years only, and at the end of the term the city will explore the possibility of adding garbage and recycling collection as in-house services.

In other business, Albemarle City Council:

• Recognized Hannah Hearne for 19 years of service on the city’s Tree Commission.

• Recognized the Public Works Department staff as part of National Public Works Week.

• Received an update on a Water Basin Transfer proposal

• Changed the dates of Council’s July meetings from July 1 and 15 to July 8 and 22.

• Entered a closed session to discuss personnel matters and to consult with the city attorney.

The next meeting of Albemarle City Council will take place on June 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.