EDINBURG — Town Council members decided to try to forgo obtaining a loan to pay for the steep costs of providing water service to the town this year and moved forward on a variety of other business at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Mayor Dan Harshman told council members the town was considering taking out a loan to help cover the nearly $100,000 water service cost. Leaky pipes, contaminated wells and corroding pumps have all taken their toll on the town during an especially wet year.
“We’ve spent a ton more money than we ever expected to spend this year on water,” Harshman said. “We’ve got our tax revenues coming in but our tax revenues are really not supposed to be paying for water and sewer, and we’re going to end up doing that.”
Harshman said the town budgeted to take out a loan but suggested offering a reduced rate for tap fees to help ease costs. All of the council members at Tuesday’s meeting agreed that selling tap fees for undeveloped lots was a better course of action than taking out a loan.
Council members adopted a resolution reducing water tap fees from $5,000 to $3,500; and sewer tap fees from $10,000 to $8,500 until Dec. 28. Along with the reduced rate, the town waived the mandatory plumbing inspection within 180 days of purchase for anyone who purchases a tap-in during that time. Tap connections purchased must be paid in full by Dec. 28.
By selling tap connections to owners of undeveloped land now, the town aims to put some cash in the bank before the end of the year.
Town Attorney Jay Neal asked Harshman about tap fee resales. Neal said a Strasburg man once purchased many tap fees at a discounted rate and held on to them before selling them at full value to other developers. Harshman said Edinburg tap fees were tied to land, so they could not be resold.
Some of the water service problems cropped up last month when a test showed elevated E. coli levels in the town’s water. Harshman said he had to send out a letter to residents informing them about the elevated levels.
“I really hated to send that out with the wording that was in there,” Harshman said about the notice. “If I wanted to change the wording in it, I had to get Health Department approval. I contacted the Health Department and [they] did not get back to me.”
Harshman said the elevated levels in the test could have been avoided if additional tests upstream and downstream were taken.
Besides water problems, council members and the Planning Commission have been in touch with Wholesome Foods about community complaints related to noise and the way its truck-loading yard looks.
Wes Pence, the owner of Wholesome Foods, attended Tuesday’s meeting to talk with council members about addressing community complaints. Pence agreed to place green mats on the fence surrounding his yard and asked the mayor and council members to keep him up to date with any problems they or the community have with his operation.
“We want to be good members of the community and the town,” Pence said, “we want to try to keep things in order the best we can. I guess I was a little blind-sided by the letter, but we have taken efforts to clean things up and make them look better.”
Stephen VanStee is a member of the Town Council and the chairman of the Planning Commission, which recommended the green mats to cover the fence. He said the commission suggested Pence roll the mats out on the inside of his fence and cover all of his property including the fence that backs up on to land owned by the Forestry Department.
Pence told council members he was happy to follow their wishes but said he would have to check with the Forestry Department before placing mats on the fence his property shares with the department. He said it would make more sense to place the mats on the outside to cover the chain link. Council members told VanStee he could visit the property again with Pence and could make any decision he saw fit with the council’s approval.
Last month, an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance was proposed and its first reading was on Tuesday evening. The second reading and a vote on determining whether to eliminate the language stipulating minimum size requirements for dwelling is scheduled for December’s meeting.
All council members were present at Tuesday’s meeting with the exception of Bill Boone.