Plain City approves utility rate increase


Plain City residents will soon see an increase in their utility bills.
During Monday’s Village council meeting, council approved a resolution to increase water and sewer bills beginning March 1.
Water and sewer rates will increase by 2% each year for three years. To offset the increase, the sewer capital surcharge fee will decrease by $0.50 each year over the same timeframe.
According to Village Administrator Nathan Cahall, the increase will result in a total bill increase of $0.31 monthly for a typical residential user with 3,000 gallons of usage per month.
Cahall said a letter detailing the changes was sent to village residents several weeks ago.
The letter indicated a need for rate increases due to a rise in operational costs for the Village’s utility system.
While staff feels higher rates are necessary, Cahall said the Village made an effort to solicit feedback from residents.
However, he said Plain City staff has not received any comments in response to the mailed letter.
In talking to residents, council president Jody Carney said she has heard about a 50/50 split in in the amount of customers who support or oppose the increase.
Council member Darrin Lee asked if council wanted to table the resolution to give residents more time to voice their opinions.
Since council considered the increase for several months and heard no feedback from residents during that period, council member Shannon Pine said she was comfortable voting that day.
The increase passed with a 4-2 vote, with Carney and council member Sherry Heineman dissenting.
In other business:
– Tabled an ordinance disapproving a final development plan for the Oak Grove Residential Development.
According to a memorandum from Village staff, the development was initially proposed several years ago and has been continued over time.
At the November 2019 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Village staff identified areas of concern and parts of the proposal that “lack information and documentation.”
Staff then reached out to the developers for comments or updates, but Cahall said they did not receive a response.
On Dec. 18, 2019, the commission voted to recommend denial of the application.
Wade Dunham, of the Evergreen Land Company, was present at the council meeting to advocate against disapproval.
“From what I understand, council is telling us to either get out of town or start from scratch,” he said.
He explained, based on his correspondence with Cahall, the developer did not believe the final development plan would be reviewed at the November Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Dunham said the developer’s confusion explained their absence at the November meeting and the lack of communication.
“It sounds like just a case of miscommunication to me,” Mayor Darrin Lane said.
Cahall argued the issue was not caused by a disconnect between the two parties, but by the developer.
“The disconnect is in the level of responsiveness (from the developer) to issues identified by staff and consultants,” he said.
Pine asked if there was a means to send the application back to the Planning and Zoning Commission so the applicant could submit any additional information that was missing.
Village Solicitor Paul Lafayette said the zoning code provides council three options: vote to approve the development, which would need a supermajority to contrast the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation; vote to disapprove; or table the ordinance.
To go back to the commission, Lafayette said council would need to disapprove the application and developers would need to submit a new application.
Lee, who is also a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, suggested council abide by their recommendation, since they are delegated the responsibility to review applications.
Council ultimately voted unanimously to table the ordinance and asked the applicant to send needed materials to village staff prior to the next council meeting.
A public hearing on the matter was set for Feb. 24.
– Cahall said the Village’s online utility payment portal is now up and running after a “two month lull.”
He said he hopes an option to allow recurring transfers from a checking account should be available to residents at the next billing cycle.
– Council approved a lease agreement with the Miami Valley Steam Threshers Association.
The lease secures a five-year agreement and gives Steam Threshers a five-year option, effectively allowing the association to negotiate with national vendors on the premise of a 10-year lease.

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