The Town of Strasburg budget proposal for next year that includes an increase in sewer and trash fees will be voted on next week as will a special permit for a storage facility within the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park.
The approximately $17 million spending plan for the 2021-2022 fiscal year includes the addition of a flat $3 fee to sewer bills as a way to make up for a $500,000 deficit in the sewer fund.
An increase in curbside trash pickup from $11.95 to $12.13 is also included with the proposal, as is a 2-cent increase in trash-cart rental. The trash-related increases are dictated by a contractual agreement with Waste Management.
Council members had discussed removing the sewer bill increase and focusing on conservation education. But former Town Manager Wyatt Pearson explained that conservation efforts won’t make up the deficit and could lead to a larger one if people used less water and sewer services.
The increase is projected to bring in about $95,000 of revenue, the council has discussed. Councilman John Massoud asked the staff Monday if they could provide him with a history of the sewer fund deficit.
Council members also discussed removing a proposed assistant town manager position from the budget to save about $26,000 to help with finding a new town manager and increase pay to staff taking on responsibilities during the interim vacancy.
Mayor Brandy Boise said during a work session Monday night that a majority of the council seems to be in favor of keeping the assistant town manager position and the water bill increase within the budget.
Councilman Dane Hooser had proposed increasing the cigarette tax to generate revenue to increase town staff pay, but that change to the budget was not made.
For the special use permit, council members continued a similar discussion the Planning Commission had last week when it recommended approval of the permit as to whether a storage facility would bring in an adequate number of jobs.
A member of the Whitacre family, which owns Route 37 Storage and wants to build the facility on the site, told the council Monday night she wasn’t sure how many employees the facility would hire. But her other facility has three, with some part-time workers during the summer.
A plan for the business park recommends the area be a draw for job growth. Councilwoman Christie Monahan questioned if approving the permit was a good idea since the town spent about $100,000 on the plan and infrastructure improvements to the park.
The council questioned if the approximately 12 acres of land, between 8 and 9 acres of which are usable because of utility easements, eyed for the storage facility could be joined with an adjacent 12-acre plot to attract a larger business.
But Jim Guisewhite, a broker with SVN Commercial Specialists, said during the work session there was a deal with a trucking company that the Industrial Development Authority was close to finalizing that would eliminate the possibility.
On Tuesday, the IDA approved the sale of that adjacent plot to a truck repair company, dependent upon a text amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance, which currently prohibits truck repair businesses.
The special use permit is being sought because storage facilities can’t be built by-right under the Unified Development Ordinance, and Guisewhite said the land owner was told that getting approval for the permit would be easier than getting the text amendment.
Because of housing development in town, there is a need for storage, the applicants told the council. David Blount, owner of the land proposed for the facility, said there has been a plan to fill the park since 1999 and it is difficult to build on.
Mayor Brandy Boise recused herself from the vote since her parents own a storage facility out of town. and she helps manage it.
A majority of the council also spoke in favor of constructing a Trex fence at a cost of $36,000 on the western and southern side of Town Hall to increase officer safety and privacy for town workers on their breaks. Landscaping work is included in the cost.
Neighbors have supported the project as a way to cut down on pedestrians walking through their yards and to limit noise and light pollution from officer's cruisers leaving the parking lot.
The Town Council's next meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday.