A proposed ordinance designed to raise of the water surcharge for Cumberland water customers hit a wall Tuesday during the Cumberland City Council’s regular meeting.
The ordinance, which would have raised an existing surcharge — and customers’ bills — an additional $5, was up for a second reading Tuesday.
Mayor Carolyn Elliott asked the council if they wished to discuss the ordinance.
“I do,” replied council member Charles Raleigh. “I’ve looked over some stuff and had a few calls from some people…I know something needs to be done with it, I just don’t know if we need to jump that high right now.”
Raleigh brought up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an example of why he would not vote for the increase.
“Every little penny really does count,” said Raleigh. “A lot of people thought they had good insurance and now are being forced to lose their insurance and jump on board with the ACA. It’s cost some people their jobs.”
Council member Yvonne Gilliam argued that the raise is a necessary step.
“I know that nobody wants to lay a burden on anybody,” said Gilliam. “But the cost of running this water is outrageous…We’ve not raised anything in 12 years. You have to keep up with your costs or you’ll go under, $5 (a month) is much better than losing our water system. If we don’t keep up our water system like the state asked us — if we lose our water system and someone comes in and takes over — $5 is much better than $50 a month.”
Council member Ron Jarvis suggested cutting costs may be another option.
“We’ve cut costs to the bare minimum,” replied Elliott.
Elliott pointed out the city had cut four employees in order to cut costs.
“You can’t impose $5 on the public when there’s no jobs out there,” said Jarvis. “I would have to vote no for this myself.”
Council member David Dixon said he had done some research and found the city would soon have a comparable amount of money available due to a bond that would be paid off in December.
“We’re going to be paying off this KIA bond,” said Dixon. “It averages about $4,500 a month…Doing the $5 more a month brings in roughly $5,000. We’re going to see a savings of about $4,500 a month anyway, so I don’t see a need to impose that cost on the customers.”
Elliott mentioned some upcoming costs to keep the water system up and running.
“I most definitely don’t want to raise it, I have to pay it too,” said Elliott before the vote. “I’m in the position where I know what all is wrong. We are going to have to buy pumps. We are going to have to fix the sewer plant. We’re going to have to buy things at the water plant. So there you go. You’ve got to have money to do it with.”
After some discussion, Elliott called for a vote.
The council voted down a motion to approve the ordinance, leaving the surcharge unchanged.
In other council activity:
* The council approved a $25 gift card for city employees as a Christmas bonus;
* The Cumberland Christmas Parade was set for Dec. 6 at 5 p.m.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, firstname.lastname@example.org