By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Town residents who don't pay their Front Royal utility bills face a lighter penalty under a new set of reconnection fees.
Town Council on Monday amended the Front Royal ordinance governing water and electricity fees to reflect a sliding scale structure. Council had at its meeting two weeks ago adopted an ordinance which increased the reconnection fees to $50. Councilman Thomas Conkey sought to reduce that penalty through an amendment to the proposed ordinance but his motion failed.
This time, Conkey proposed amending the ordinance to create a structure under which the reconnection fee begins at $20 for the first time, then increases by $10 each subsequent time the town must reconnect the resident's water or electricity. At the recommendation of Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden, council also made the fee applicable per account rather than per year as one council member suggested.
Mayor Timothy Darr broke a tie vote at a previous meeting which ultimately defeated Conkey's original motion. Darr told council Monday he received information from staff on deliquent utility users and reconnections. Out of 250 disconnection notices issued last month, Darr said, 240 were repeat offenders who he said abused the system.
"We're not trying to make money but stop the bleeding, stop the loss of revenue going out the door," said Councilman Carson Lauder Jr.
Councilman N. Shae Parker suggested the ordinance contain a clause which would reset the fees assessed to an account for good standing.
Also at the meeting council approved the first amendment to the fiscal 2013 budget by which they increased the $70,000 allocated for one-time bonuses to full- and part-time staff to $91,000. Staff bonuses would go to employees not appointed by council. The motion passed 6-0. Councilman Hollis Tharpe did not support the original amendment but told council this time he supported the bonuses after receiving more information about the budget item.
Councilman Thomas Sayre attempted to change the one-time bonus for most town employees approved in the fiscal 2013 budget to a permanent increase. However, Gilkey-Breeden advised to do so would cost the town more than the $91,000 budgeted for the bonuses. She also warned the salary increases would cause a "huge challenge" in creating the budget for the following year. Council voted against adding his motion to the agenda but Councilman Hollis Tharpe recommended addressing Sayre's suggestion at a future work session.