Though a water/sewer rate increase and the hiring of a city administrator topped the agenda at Tuesday night’s LaFollette City Council Meeting, no decisions were actually made on these issues for lack of votes.
As soon as the city administrator issue was brought up, Councilman Hansford Hatmaker made a motion to advertise in hopes of filling the position. But the motion soon died when Hatmaker failed to garner any support. This ceased all discussion on the topic. Terry Sweat, city finance director, will continue to act as the city administrator for LaFollette in the interim.
The water/sewer rate increase was the next issue to come before the council. Once again, the LaFollette Utility Board members and General Manager Kenny Baird were in attendance at the meeting. After the increase proposal was read, the council members took no action, essentially killing the ordinance before it could even come to a vote.
The LaFollete Utility Board (LUB) had previously presented a water/sewer rate increase proposal to the city council over a month ago.
The increase proposed by LUB would be a 10-percent increase in January 2010 and a 10-percent increase in July of 2010. Baird also explained to the council and mayor at previous meetings and workshops that the rate proposal put forth by LUB was the smallest amount that would still allow the water department to break even.
“Even after the final increase, the minimum bill would only go to $12.65, which would still place LaFollette Utilities three dollars less than Caryville Jacksboro Utilities,” Baird said at last month’s LaFollette City Council workshop.
After the ordinance died, Councilman Bob Fannon suggested another meeting.
“We really need to set up a meeting with the utility board to discuss this further,” Fannon said.
“That’s fine Terry, go ahead and set up a meeting,” Mayor Mike Stanfield agreed.
Baird said he and the board were more than willing to meet with the city council to discuss the issue once again.
“I plan to get with Terry and see when we can set up another workshop to see what they (city council) have on their minds,” Baird said on Wednesday morning.
He said that he hoped persistence would pay off and that the council would realize how bad the water/wastewater department needs the increase. Until a decision has been made, the wastewater department will continue losing money.
“It’s kind of like being in quicksand. You don’t go under all at once, but you’re still sinking,” Baird said of the continuous financial loss in the water/wastewater department.
Utility board member Mark Hoskins said he felt that the city council knew the utility’s need for an increase and that he did not understand what the hold up was.
“It’s obvious to every member of the city council that we need a rate increase to sustain the water/sewer service to the community. Why this issue doesn’t even deserve a response from the city council is what I’m having a hard time understanding,” Hoskins said in reference to the council not even making a motion or discussing the rate increase.
The council did make a decision on the library project, voting to allow architect Jeff Johnson to begin site studies on the two proposed locations at a cost of $10,750 to the city. LaFollette Librarian Nancy Green said she was pleased that the project was moving forward.