APPALACHIA — Town residents will pay more for water and sewer service in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Town council on June 20 passed its budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The budget includes a water rate increase of $1.50 per every 1,000 gallons over the minimum 1,000 gallons for in-town and $1.85 for out-of-town residents. The sewer maintenance fee will increase from $4 to $5 and garbage rates will increase by $2. Other increases added are a reconnect fee of $75 from $50 and a returned check fee of $75 from $25.
The budget passed on a 4-1 vote, with council member Travis Anderson voting against it.
When asked why he voted against the budget, Anderson wrote: “My personal opinion, I am not a fan of how the budget process works. Every department within the town, that includes public works, water, police, fire and EMS, parks and recreation, all need to be involved. They need to be brought forward and show what their needs are to operate and areas that could possibly be cut. Communication is very important.”
While the town increased its contribution to the fire department by $2,500 in the last fiscal year, there was no increase for the coming fiscal year. The town is contributing $47,500 to the fire department’s yearly budget.
Anderson, who is also deputy fire chief, stated that he has never known the Appalachia council to ask emergency services how much funding is needed.
“The town approached the fire department in 2014 to take over emergency medical services,” Anderson wrote. “Not one dime of additional funding was allocated to purchase an ambulance from the town or county. It was like, ‘Here you go, take it and run, but there is no extra money going to be allocated.’ The fire department went in debt $85,000 of their own money to purchase an ambulance and equipment just to protect the residents of Appalachia.”
Anderson explained that the fire station is owned by the town but the fire department, which is its own non-profit organization, has been paying for updates and repairs to the building.
Anderson stated that lack of funding to emergency services is not the only reason he voted against the budget. “I know money is tight, I totally get that, but we need to have more discussion, more involvement and find other ways to bring money into the town without making the residents bear the burden. I will not vote for increases to put the burden on the town residents. It’s like trying to get blood out of a turnip.”
Anderson compared the new return check fee of $75 to the $25 fine for blocking a fire hydrant. “Life and safety to me is way more important. Hit their wallets and pocketbooks if they are breaking the law and endangering lives.”
He also suggested that the town apply for grants to help fund the police department and hire more officers. “I just feel we could do better. I’m not pointing fingers, but the people vote our council in to find and solve issues. I am not a status quo person.”