March 13, 2003
City Considering Raising Utility Deposits For Renters
The City of Memphis could have a new utilities deposit rate if the city attorney approves the proposal made at the March 6 meeting of the City Council.
The council voted 4-0 to increase the deposit required for water and electrical services for renters to $140 for electricity and $60 for water and sewer for a combined deposit of $200.
The legal question arose because the city voted to maintain the utility deposit for property owners at the existing rate of $70 for electricity and $30 for water and sewer. The city attorney will review the issue to make sure the split rate is legal. Other surrounding towns such as Kahoka, Edina and Palmyra all have split policies for renters as opposed to owners.
The move came after the city reviewed its delinquent utility payments. The city was stuck with more than $3,800 in unpaid utility bills from renters as compared to just $412 in delinquent payments from property owners.
"In most of those cases of delinquent bills from renters, the new deposit would have covered the unpaid balance meaning the city would have been paid for all the services provided," stated city clerk Angela Newman.
The council reviewed a comparative report from surrounding towns and learned the existing deposit schedule was fairly low compared to these towns. The $70/$30 deposit required by Memphis is much lower than the $125 utilities deposit required of renters in Kahoka ($50 for owners). Edina required a $100 deposit from renters for water alone while charging property owners just $10. Palmyra does not require an electric deposit from property owners but mandates a $150 deposit from renters.
Even with an anticipated 50 percent return rate after the delinquent bills are turned over to a collection agency, the city still stands to lose roughly $2,000 in unpaid utility bills.
Bill Kiddoo of Waste Corporation of America was present at the meeting in regard to the city's solicitation for bids for trash service. He discussed rising costs of providing the service and noted the closing of a local landfill.
Mayor Alexander indicated the service bids would be opened at the April 10 council meeting at which time the council will act on contract.
Police - City Marshal Steve Snodgrass presented February statistics for the P.D. Officers investigated one vandalism, two peace disturbances and two cases of stealing. The department made 53 traffic stops and two DWI arrests. Officers performed 23 community security checks and responded to 13 animal calls and five ambulance runs.
Water - Superintendent Dennis Howard reported the city's new turbidity meters have been installed and are working perfectly.
Howard asked the council for permission to order water line pipe due to an impending price increase. Howard noted his supplier had informed him the price per foot would rise from $2.21 to $2.33 in April. The superintendent stated he needs roughly 4,000 feet of pipe and noted the pre-order would save the city $300-$400.
The bulk of the water line will be used in the summer's major project, replacing the old cast iron line on Knott Street. Approximately seven blocks will be replaced from Grand Ave. to Madison Street. Howard said the water line will cost approximately $6,600 with the hydrants, valves and other accessories making up the rest of the estimated $14,000 cost of the project.
The fire station water line project is expected to get underway next month Howard said. The meter is in and the remainder of parts are on order. "We'd really like to get this new line in place before grassfire season," Howard said.
The water department is awaiting the final report from the city engineer regarding water rates. Howard indicated the city has not raised water rates since 1992. The council will review the rates once the engineering report is finalized.
The council also agreed to solicit bids for roof repair at the water plant. Howard indicated roof work was last done in 1994 when felt and hot tar were installed. However he noted the roof has had a bad leak on the west side for the past two years.
The council also agreed to transfer $50,000 from the water works principal and interest account into the department's operational and maintenance fund.
Line Crew - Superintendent Dave Kittle informed the council of a request by the hospital for electrical access on the north side of the building for a mobile MRI unit that will be at SCMH two days a month.
Kittle indicated it would cost the city $15,000 to install the poles and line.
The council tabled the issue for further review at the April meeting.
Street - Superintendent Roy Monroe reported meeting with two representatives from the Missouri Department of Conservation regarding the rifle range lease. He received a list of proposed improvements to be made to the range by MDC, including rebuilding the birms, removal of trees and installation of paper target holders. The lease agreement is still under review.
Monroe also discussed the possibility of a boat dock at the south boat ramp. The council will pursue the possibility with MDC.
The council voted 4-0 to remove the stop sign at the west end of Mety Street.
The street department also reported an anticipated price increase on drainpipe. Monroe stated the price is expected to go up six percent in April. The council agreed to order the city's pipe prior to that date.
Light Plant - Superintendent Mike Ahland indicated February was a busy month. "We did more running in the last couple of weeks than we did all of last year." Ahland reported.
Alderman Mike Stone asked about abandoned vehicles on private property. The council discussed city ordinance that prohibits unlicensed vehicles on city property. However there is no law against storing vehicles on private property.
Alderman Teresa Skinner asked if the city had any ordinances regarding dangerous dogs, particularly pit bulls. There is no such ordinance in Memphis. Skinner also praised the work done by Roy Monroe on the new desks at city hall.
Mayor Ron Alexander reported attending a meeting discussing the availability of low-interest loans from the Department of Natural Resources for water projects. Alexander stated the loans are available at one-percent interest. He indicated the funds might be available for projects like a new water tower.
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