Lenoir officials discuss new fee

Talks begin on setting 2014-15 budget
Mar. 20, 2014 @ 08:38 AM

Lenoir may start assessing residents and businesses with a fee to help pay for the cost of handling storm water runoff.

Establishing a storm water utility, giving city employees raises and updating water and sewer facilities were among topics discussed at the first planning meeting with the Lenoir City Council, department heads and city staff for the fiscal 2014-15 budget.

Jared Wright, the city's storm water management administrator, said that if the city establishes a storm water utility, it could either charge a flat rate for both residential and non-residential customers or charge based on the amount of impervious surface a property has.

For example, Salisbury charges a $4.25 flat rate on residential utility bills, and charges businesses $4.25 for every 2,500 square feet of the property's impervious surfaces, such as roofs and parking lots.

The funds would go to infrastructure and maintenance costs related to managing storm water, such as the sinkhole that opened last year near West Avenue from the failure of a long-forgotten sewer line. Repairs related to that sinkhole are likely to cost the city more than $1 million.

But before moving forward, city officials are working to get current infrastructure mapped and assessed to better determine how much to charge and how to administer the utility.

The city will also have to pay about $120,000 in new medical insurance costs, an increase partly due to the Affordable Care Act, Bailey said, though noting that the city has been fortunate to have had low or no increases in the past few years.

Also discussed at the meeting was raising the pay for city workers. The police and fire departments, in particular, struggle with losing employees to nearby departments that pay better. City officials expect to be able to use $625,000 a year that they say the city has been overpaying on its obligations for a retirement fund. 

City council members also heard presentations from the police, fire, recreation and public works departments about their budget proposals for the coming year.

Police Chief Scott Brown proposed buy six new patrol cars, 10 to 15 new computer/workstations, and a new communications system upgrade, while Fire Chief Ken Briscoe recommended replacing a 19-year-old fire engine, and he listed several high-mileage administrative vehicles that may need to be replaced.

Lenoir Parks and Recreation Director Rob Winkler proposed new playground equipment, repairs to the Link Center, and renovations to the bleachers, tennis courts and roof at Mulberry Recreation Center.

City Manager Lane Bailey will present a recommended budget to the city council on May 20. The earliest that the budget could be adopted is June 3.