Bath council adds new member, passes ordinances
The Town of Bath Council welcomed newly appointed Councilwoman Irene Hedrick to council at the Tuesday, December 4 meeting. Hedrick replaces Kenny Easton who resigned from council November 9 because he is moving out of town.
Hedrick served on council in 2003 and is the President of the Town of Bath Cemetery Management and Maintenance Corporation.
Although not official until January, Hedrick will chair the Cemetery Committee formerly chaired by Councilman Scott Merki, who will move over to chair the Public Works Committee, replacing Easton.
Council held the second reading and then passed Ordinance 2007-09 which reverses Ordinance 2005-06 and restores a council vote to the position of Town Recorder.
The Town Recorder position is vacant, but the duties of the recorder have been carried out by Councilman David Crosby since Garnet Marsh resigned the post in September.
Council may fill the recorder position with a current council member or appoint a new person to the position. The recorder position pays $1,200 a year.
Now that the vote has been restored to the Town Recorder, one scenario is that council could appoint Crosby to the position and fill Crosby's council seat with a new person.
Mayor Susan Webster said she has received both written and verbal requests from persons interested in serving on council.
Whatever appointments the council decides to make will occur after the first of the year.
Council held the second reading and then passed Ordinance 2007-10 which changes meeting times. The ordinance changes Town of Bath Council meeting times from 5:30 p.m.
to 6 p.m. the first and
third Tuesdays of each month.
New antenna tower request
Fire Chief J. J. Steiner appeared before council to request permission to install a new antenna tower behind the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department buildings on Mercer Street.
Steiner told council the tower will be 60 feet high and attach to the rear of the older building. The tower will rise 10 feet above the roof line of the building.
Steiner said the tower is needed to provide better communications between the fire department and 911 Emergency Call Center.
The fire department will mount two vertical antennas to the tower, one for the existing high band 150 Mhz radio frequency used by the department and another for a new ultra high band 450 Mhz radio. The new ultra high band radio is being provided through a Homeland Security grant awarded recently to the county.
Webster told Steiner there is no ordinance regulating tower installation. She suggested he submit a building permit for approval by council.
Town Clerk Margie Allgyer presented Steiner with two $1,000 checks. One check is a budgeted donation the town makes each year to the fire department. The second check is a donation from the Water Department in appreciation for the help the fire department provided during the recent water pump crisis.
Steiner thanked council for the donations and said the department was "always willing to help any way they can."
Steiner suggested the town install a fire department connection to the outside of the water plant to make it easier to connect a hose when the fire department is called to help pump water.
Steiner informed council the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department will host the 107th Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association convention next year.
The dates for the convention are July 30 – August 2. The dates coincide with the Morgan County Fair. Steiner said a parade through town of fire trucks will be held Saturday, August 2. The parade will terminate at the fairgrounds.
Convention meetings will be held at American Legion Hall. A Highway Safety Program will be presented on Friday, August 1.
Webster said a contract between the town and Streetscape engineering and consultant firm Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson (JMT) of Baltimore, Maryland has been given to town attorney Richard Gay for review.
Streetscape Committee member Larry Lower said that once the contract is signed, a public meeting will be held with residents and interviews with stakeholders would be conducted.
Lower said he hopes to have the contract signed by December 10.
Chief Jim Minton told council that through the end of November, Berkeley Springs Police have made 115 criminal arrests, 16 DUI arrests, conducted 21 accident investigations, and responded to 635 calls so far this year.
Webster said the accident rate was down by nearly half from last year and attributed the decrease to good work by police enforcing traffic regulations.
Minton asked council to approve the expenditure of $800 for four digital cameras needed by police to document accident and crime scenes. Council approved the request.
Minton reminded council that parking meters will be bagged to allow free parking for the holidays December 17 - 25.
Water rate increase
Crosby urged council to move forward on his proposed rate increase for water customers.
Crosby changed his proposal from a week ago. He is now proposing a $9 flat rate for every 1,000 gallons over the minimum 6,000 gallons per billing period.
Crosby said the new rates would result in a 17 percent increase in revenue. He said customers using the minimum 6,000 gallons or less would see a rate decrease of 3 to 4 percent. Other customers that use a little more than the minimum would see an increase of 3% to 4%.
Customers who consume a large amount of water would see a much bigger increase.
"One reason for increasing the rate to $9 is to encourage large water customers to start conserving water," Crosby said.
"We think this flat rate will actually promote conservation of water," Webster said.
In addition, Crosby proposed accessing an impact fee of $2,500 for new water line taps. The fee includes the tap and installation of a water meter. Currently there are 400 requests for taps on a waiting list.
Webster talked about improvements needed to the water plant to stabilize the plant and expand plant capacity to help meet demand. The 400 additional tap requests represent a 25% increase in water customers.
Currently water plant capacity is approximately 800,000 gallons a day. The town is allowed by the state to pump 1,008,000 gallons a day from the springs. To be able to pump the additional 208,000 gallons, the plant needs a major expansion.
Other needed projects are the replacement of 21,000 linear feet of water line in areas outside of town, another water storage tank and possible additions to staff.
The proposed increases will give the town enough additional revenue to allow for debt service on loans necessary to start needed water projects.
"We don't want to raise fees anymore than what we need," Webster said.
Hedrick gave council an update on work at Greenway Cemetery. She said the survey being conducted by Berkeley Land Surveys is almost done.
"I am looking forward to getting the survey so we can see exactly what land we own," Hedrick said.
Hedrick reported that the cemetery corporation was in "pretty good" financial shape. She said a new memory garden had been completed and the commission wanted to add several more benches and improve the road.
Hedrick said she is working with Gordon Memorials of Pennsylvania to work out an hourly wage for their workers to come and repair down monuments.
Hedrick commended Larry Davis for all the physical work that he has done at the cemetery this year.
"The cemetery has been a real success story for the town," Webster said.
Building permit questioned
Council failed to approve a building permit for a sign that Helsley-Johnson Funeral Home wants to erect on their property at Union and North Washington streets.
The sign rises 8 feet on a narrow pedestal to a digital clock, similar to the one that used to be at the courthouse, and is topped by a 4 by 6 foot sign advertising the funeral home and new cremation center.
Although a motion to accept the permit was made, no second was forthcoming from council. Webster tabled the issue to give council time to investigate and reconsider the building permit.