Infrastructure needs clash at Commission

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Tony Beyer

The needs of a growing county led to a clash between roads and water over funding at Monday night’s County Commission meeting.

Commissioner Joseph Warner introduced a resolution that would split the county’s Adequate Facilities Tax receipts evenly between the Board of Public Utilities and the County Road Department.

The Adequate Facilities Tax is added to new construction, both residential and commercial, and is earmarked for the infrastructure projects required for the increased demand.

As it exists currently, the first $300,000 raised by the tax is earmarked for the Board of Public Utilities, which is responsible for water service in the county. Any funds over that amount are supposed to go into the county’s general fund.

The county has yet to hit that $300,000 mark, although, with strong construction activity this budget year, it believes it could by June.

Last year’s total received was $230,000.

The existing rate is 70 cents per square foot for residential construction and 30 cents per square foot on commercial construction.

The county Planning Committee originally proposed In February increasing both the residential and commercial rates by 30 cents per square foot each to $1 per square foot and 60 cents per foot, respectively.

County Building inspector Don Nelson had stated at an earlier commission meeting that the feedback he had received from developers and homebuilders had been positive. He said that they understood that development increased infrastructure demands and that the county’s existing rates were lower than surrounding counties.

Warner’s resolution only increased the residential rate by 30 cents and proposed the even split of the money received.

Commissioner Mickey King introduced an amendment to the resolution that mirrored the initial planning committee proposal for rate increases while keeping the first $300,000 with Public Utilities and giving any amount over that cap to the Highway Department.

Public Utilities, the county water supplier, uses the funds to pay debt that has been incurred in extending water lines to serve new development.

Commissioner Tony Beyer, who sits on the Public Utility board as a commission representative, has said in other meetings that the county water system is getting to the point where a lack of capital threatens their ability to run new lines or replace current lines with larger lines to handle increased demand.

Commission Chairman Mike Waggoner stressed that any change to the rate or where the funds were directed would not go into effect until July 1, the start of the next budget year.

Despite a 8-7 vote in favor of the amendment, it needed 10 votes in order to be approved.

Commissioner Sheldon Davis then moved to table the resolution until the May commission meeting so that commissioners could see what action the state legislature might take regarding increasing the state gas tax.

The Governor’s initial seven cents per gallon of gasoline and 12 cents on diesel was proposal was predicted to add almost $700,000 extra to the state’s contribution for roads to Marshall County.

The General Assembly has compromised on a graduated increase, starting at four cents increasing to six cents over a period of years. The highway department would still see extra funding annually under this plan.

Commissioner E.W. Hill wasn’t willing to wait on the state.

“I don’t know if they are even going to vote on it or not,” he said.

The motion to table passed 13-3, with Commissioners Neese, Warner, and Adams opposing.

Warner’s original resolution will be added to May’s agenda.