City approves 3 percent cost of living hike

Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:54 am

The Miller City Council met December 17.

Approval was given to Lynn Harrell for two plats of land. He said there were no plans for development at this time, but he wanted the plats in place for the future.

Department head reports were given.

Bill Lewellen, electric department, said the summer and fall phases of the electric project is completed, and will begin again in the spring. So far, 328 meters have been cut over, and the old system will begin to be “retired” over the winter.

Jim Bonebright, water department, reported on new water rates that will be going into effect. Also included in the water charge will be a mandatory $3.94 surcharge per month for every customer, to repay the cost of the water tower project.

In addition to the new rates and surcharge, Bonebright listed other changes he hopes to see implemented as soon as possible:

1. All accounts will be charged a monthly minimum for water, sewer and electric, whether the service is on or off.

2. All accounts not currently in the system will have to pay re-connection fees before becoming an active account.

3.All rental properties will remain in the landowner’s name as far as billing, in order to reduce/eliminate delinquent bills. Bonebright said the City has some $10,000 in delinquent/unpaid bills, and most are from rental property.

4. Develop a new ordinance stating that the home/property owner is ultimately responsible for all outstanding utility bills on rental property.

5. Electric deposits will be $120, instead of two different rates.

6. Activation fees will be $25 for water and $25 for electric during normal business hours. Fees for re-activation were also listed.

The Council gave approval for Bonebright and finance officer Laura Smith to travel to Pierre to meet with the City’s attorney, to check legalities regarding the proposed ordinances.

Bonebright said there are 30 owners of 75 rental houses in Miller (not counting apartment houses). Plans are to meet with property owners to explain the reason for changing the billing process.

Bonebright added that the generator donated to the City from the hospital needs some repair before it can be used at a lift station.

Street department head Ron Hoftiezer was not present, but reported on work done the preceding month, including burning road ditches and other areas to cut down on snow drifting.

Shannon Speck, police chief, reported the police department contacted several residents who had not moved their vehicles from the street. Vehicles are required to be moved from the street within 48 hours after a snowplow goes by.

Regarding an ordinance dealing with stranded or inoperable vehicles, Speck said it should be deemed a nuisance ordinance.

Finance officer Smith said a study is offered free regarding the South Dakota Broadband Initiative. The main purpose of the initiative is to increase high-speed broadband Internet to all of South Dakota. The study will include Internet use in government offices.

Smith stated park donations for 2012 totaled $2,132, up from 2011 but less that receipts in 2010.

The City sales tax was more than expected for November, and shows $40,000 more collected this year than in November 2011.

LaDonna Wharton, On Hand Development, Inc., reported on the status of the “Cowboy” figure at the Virginian Restaurant. On Hand is waiting for an engineer’s report. She said On Hand has also contacted other insurance agencies, to see how their rates for insuring the figure would compare to the City’s insurance provider.

Although it was not an agenda item, discussion was held regarding employee evaluations. Council member Mary Johnson said the policy manual calls for evaluations, but none has been done during her tenure. At one time, Council committees evaluated department heads, and department heads in turn evaluated their employees. It was felt the practice had halted when there was no incentive (raises, etc.). Johnson said even without “incentives,” she felt discussions were beneficial, so the City and its employees would know expectations, plans, etc.

Under new business, the Council authorized the Street Department to advertise for a second person to drive a truck during snow removal. Also approved was a motion to supplement the police budget by $4,380, which was grant money already received. A letter received by accountants Kohlman, Bierschbach & Anderson stated the company’s understanding of the terms and objectives of their services to prepare the City’s annual report. The terms of engagement as stated in the letter were approved by the Council.

The Council discussed setting the wages for council members and City employees for 2013. The wages must be published in January.

No increase in wages were approved, but council man Tony Rangel moved to give a three percent cost of living increase. Rangel commented that City employees did not receive a cost of living increase in 2012. The projected cost of living increase (Social Security/government/military) is 1.7 percent for 2013, and he recommended providing a three percent cost of living increase. Mayor Ron Blachford stated he agreed with the recommendation. On a roll call vote, the increase was approved with five yeas and one nay.

Jim Schick, who was also not on the agenda, expressed his concern about the fencing at the airport, how ice forms on the fence, and also drifting issues. Jim Bonebright, who oversees the airport, acknowledged the fence in question was not a security fence, and that it should be removed next spring.

The Council will hold a special end-of-year meeting at noon on December 27. The next regular meeting will be January 7 at 7 p.m.