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Westmorland puts water rate increase on hold

September 06, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — Residents here will not see water rate increases, at least for now.

The City Council did not take action on a proposed rate increase for water services to help replenish declining funds. Instead the council reviewed proposed solutions submitted and arranged by City Councilman John Makin but signed by City Councilman Larry Ritchie and City Clerk Sally Traylor.

City consultant Joel Hamby proposed rate increases to address the deficit caused by overspending for the building of the new city water plant.

During a meeting in May, Hamby presented the proposed rate increase, but it was tabled until August.

The proposed rate increase was addressed Wednesday because the council meeting in August was adjourned because of a lack of quorum.


During the May meeting, Hamby told the council that city water income for the first half of fiscal 2000-2001, from July 1 to Dec. 1, was $110,760.63 but expenditures were $128,018.08, leaving the city with a shortfall of $8,457.45.

Hamby said $6,000 of that could be reimbursed through water plant construction project funds if enough money remains at the end of the construction project, which should be completed by the end of the year.

The city would still be $2,500 in debt but the proposed $1 a month fee increase for residents would generate about $600 a month. That extra money would not only cover the deficit but help build a reserve fund in case any equipment at the plant has to be replaced.

At the meeting Wednesday, Hamby presented his second review, which was for all of fiscal 2000-2001.

Hamby said total expenditures were $237,551 but revenues generated were only $235,000, leaving the city a shortfall of $2,551.

Hamby said he has tried to make cuts in expenditures as much as possible.

He said he was concerned the water plant fund would not cover an emergency. He suggested the council raise the rates to help cut the deficit and build a reserve fund.

Before the council took any action, Makin submitted a letter that contained alternatives to raising rates. The letter was signed by Makin, Ritchie and Traylor.

One of the solutions called for a determination whether three people are actually needed to run City Hall.

"Thirteen years ago office staff made an annual salary of $11,000. To date the combined salaries pursuant to the current salary schedule received on Aug. 30 have the city paying out salaries in City Hall to a tune of $81,120, not including benefits," stated the letter.

"When the city was paying $11,000 a year the city had a population of approximately 2,500. Today the city has a population of 1,500. That's a difference of $70,000," stated the letter, "We purpose that staffing go back to two positions as has been past procedure."

The letter stated that Finance Director Rita Ramos makes more than Police Chief Fred Beltran and that an office assistant II makes $2,330 more a year than the lowest-paid police officer.

"Is this the value we place on our boys in blue who put their lives on the line every day for this city?" stated the letter.

Another issue the letter brought up was cell phone use.

The letter stated Makin, Ritchie and Traylor, in March 2000, brought to council's attention that in one year cell phone cost the city $10,000.

The letter stated the city is paying monthly cell phone basic charges for Mayor Henry Halcon, Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Marquez, Public Works Director Joe Diaz, Beltran, Fire Chief Sergio Cruz and the Police Department.

"The city used to operate just fine before the age of cell phones," stated the letter.

According to the letter, eliminating cell phone use would save the city $324.50 a month or $3,894 a year for basic service charges.

The letter also stated, "This last year the city spend in cellular phone bills a total of $14,121.43, according to print-outs of a general ledger report received."

A few more recommendations were included in the letter. The council will take action on the matter in the next council meeting Sept. 21.

In other city business, City Attorney Mitchell A. Driskill told the council he had reviewed the changes by a residents' committee to a proposed nuisance abatement ordinance.

Driskill said the way the ordinance reads now is similar to an ordinance proposed several months ago. He said he had some recommendations for the committee.

The council did not vote on the issue but will bring it up during the next meeting.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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