Bath Council cuts tax rates, quadruples street fees
After a public hearing at the April 17 meeting, the Bath Town Council amended their Street Maintenance & Improvement Ordinance, increasing rates for both town residents and businesses.
The ordinance raises street fees for residents from $3 to $12 per quarter, and rates for businesses from $5 to $24 per quarter, effective July 1.
The street fees will be collected as part of the garbage collection bill. Several citizens attended the public hearing.
Councilman David Crosby, who chairs the Finance Committee, said the ordinance was first enacted in 1998 and fees have remained the same since.
Crosby said the average amount collected was about $7,000 annually. With the new rate, the town will collect an estimated $25,500.
He noted that while rates have not changed over the years, the cost of asphalt and paving has increased dramatically. Crosby said the rate increases are necessary to maintain town streets.
Councilman Kenny Easton said he recently got a quote of $20,000 to repave Congress Street between Wilkes and Washington streets.
Gordon MacLeod asked how the money would be used and how streets would be chosen for resurfacing.
Mayor Susan Webster said it would be used for paving and laying asphalt. She said streets are picked based on usage and number of residents.
The question was raised as to which streets the town was responsible for. Webster said there are 29 streets in town, but a number are maintained by the state.
Streets maintained by the state include U.S. 522, Rt. 9, Wilkes, Mercer, Fairfax and Independence streets, and part of Union and Congress streets.
Speaking for several residents of Wilkes Street, Kevin Mallory asked council to continue sending letters quarterly to the State Division of Highways requesting that Wilkes be resurfaced.
Webster said she had requested that they reallocate resources that are slated for repaving Independence Street to Wilkes Street instead. A response back has not been received. She agreed with Mallory that requests should be sent on a regular basis.
Larry Davis asked if Cornelius Avenue could be paved. He said the road was in bad shape. Webster said a large part of Cornelius is a private road so the town could not pave it.
Davis then asked if he could petition the council to close the road at the point where it crosses onto private property. Webster said if a petition was presented to council, they would consider the request.
Property tax rates
Finance Chairman Crosby explained that the town is only allowed to raise property taxes by 3% without a public hearing. Because of the recent increase in county assessments to help fund the new courthouse, the town's levy rate was decreased to stay within the 3% guideline.
Crosby reported that the town expected to collect $99,003 in property taxes for fiscal year 2007-2008 which starts July 1.
The council voted to accept the new levy rates.
Irene Hedrick, a volunteer with the Cemetery Management Maintenance Corporation, the non-profit group that maintains Greenway Cemetery, asked council to annex the cemetery to town. The cemetery is owned by the town but is outside the town limits.
Hedrick said that if the town annexed the cemetery, town police would have jurisdiction there. The cemetery road is being used as a cut through and some vandalism has occurred. She wants town police to be able to control traffic and vandals.
Webster asked Hedrick to do some research with maps and determine the shortest route that could be found to make the cemetery and town contiguous.
Crosby didn't believe the town and cemetery had to be contiguous for annexation. Recorder Garnet Marsh said she would look into it.
Hedrick also expressed concern about the availability and maintenance of equipment shared by both cemetery workers and the town's street crew. Webster suggested a meeting be set up to discuss those issues.
Councilman Kenny Easton suggested that Hedrick contact the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia. Easton said the Corps is currently working on projects in the Eastern Panhandle and might be able to help at the cemetery.
Water pipe project
Randy Watson, of Thrasher Engineering, reported to council that 89% of the main line pipe had been installed and tested. He estimated the project would be completed by June 15.
To date, 15,745 ft. of the total 17, 658 ft. of pipe has been installed. In addition, 145 of the 178 total new water meters are installed with 78 now in service.
Marsh asked if the driveway at the Highlawn Inn on Market Street would be repaired. It was apparently damaged during the work. Watson said video had been taken before work started and any problems would be corrected before the project ended.
"If something is not getting repaired right now, just wait, it will get done," Watson said. He also noted that contractor Cowgirl Up is warranting all work for one year.
Child ID kits
Police Chief James Minton showed council a sample of an identification kit that the Town of Madison is using to record information about local children. The information collected by the kits and stored with police would help in finding and identifying missing children.
The kit records medical and personal information as well as a photo of the child and a DNA sample. A copy of the kit would also be given to the child's parents.
Minton and his wife Deborah want to start a voluntary program for school children. The kits cost $2.10 apiece but may be purchased in bulk for approximately $1 each.
Webster asked that the item be put on the agenda of the next council meeting.
In other police business, Minton said he has received all the street signs to replace missing signs in town and is waiting for poles before installing the signs.
It was announced that Officer Richard Haynes will attend the police academy in Institute for 16 weeks starting May 7.
Easton asked the Finance Committee to look into approving the cost of a part-time police officer during Haynes absence.
Minton said that 400 business licenses are ready to be sent out to local businesses.
Barb Campbell, who chairs the town's Tree Committee, reported that a large, dying tree on town property is threatening a home on Market Street. She said the cost to remove the tree is $1,800. Council referred the issue to the Finance Committee.
Webster issued a proclamation making April 19 Arbor Day in Berkeley Springs. In celebration of Arbor Day and the start of Redbud Weekend, Campbell and the Ecology Coalition of Morgan County planned to plant a Redbud on Arbor Day at the Old English Cemetery.
Marsh said the Grant Committee has decided to use the Streetscape grant to improve Wilkes Street first.
Marsh said the committee had recommended using Streetscape funds on Green and Mercer streets first, but decided that with the new courthouse construction taking place, they didn't want to add to the confusion. She said other streets would be scheduled for work later.
Marsh also found out that grant money may also be available from the Transportation Enhancement Program to upgrade historic transportation buildings. The committee intends to apply for a grant to fix up the train station.