Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Council hears options to increase water rate

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The Mount Airy Water and Sewer Commission presented its recommendation to the Town Council to change water rates at a meeting Monday night.

The rate change would increase the amount most residents and businesses would pay per quarter for their water use.

The increase would be a way to pay for replacing water and sewer infrastructure without having to rely on impact fees, which come from new growth, said Dick Swanson, secretary for the commission.

Mayor Frank Johnson also provided an option for a water rate change as part of his initial budget proposal for fiscal year 2009.

Johnson’s proposal includes a 10 percent surcharge for water and sewer once a user reaches 30,000 gallons, and customers that use up to 20,000 gallons would see a slight decrease in the amount they pay each quarter.

Like with the Water and Sewer Commission’s recommendation, the mayor’s option also has large monetary increases for customers on the higher levels of water use, but they are not as steep as the commission’s.

The Town Council will consider both options as it proceeds with the town budget for the coming year.

Changes proposedfor noise ordinance

The Town Council decided to withdraw a previously introduced draft of the town noise ordinance at is meeting Monday night and introduced a new draft of the ordinance.

The town was considering changes to its noise ordinance which included changing the duration of daytime hours. Now, daytime hours last until 10 p.m. and the change would have limited daytime hours to 8 p.m.

Noise levels allowed during daytime hours are less strict than what is allowed during nighttime hours.

Local business owners, especially those who owned restaurants, said the change would hurt their revenue because diners would be less likely to come to their establishments for dinner.

Mayor Frank Johnson said consideration for businesses located in buildings that also house residents had been overlooked.

The new noise ordinance draft is scheduled to come up for a vote at the March 3 Town Council meeting to give the public time to comment.

Town budgetprocess begins

Mount Airy Mayor Frank Johnson presented his preliminary budget for fiscal year 2009, which is just above $3.1 million.

The proposed budget is about $80,000 more than where the final operating expenses for fiscal year 2008 are projected to end.

Johnson said the budget overall follows a ‘‘fiscally conservative plan” and holds taxes where they are while maintaining ‘‘the level of services we are providing.”

Town staff and officials will review the budget and the final budget is expected to be introduced at the April 7 Town Council meeting and passed at the May 5 Town Council meeting.

A public hearing on the budget will be held after the budget’s introduction.

Mount Airy Net honored

Mayor Frank Johnson presented the Mount Airy Net with a proclamation at Monday’s Town Council meeting, in recognition of its work providing assistance to people in need.

Through a network of civic organizations, churches, schools and individuals in the community, the Mount Airy Net has been able to serve as a food bank and distributor of items, such as toys, clothes and gift cards, for those who need short-term help.

‘‘For the last 17 years, it really has provided a safety net within our community,” Johnson said.

This past holiday season, the Mount Airy Net helped 308 people, a feat Mount Airy Net Director Elaine Dean said she was most proud of.

‘‘I was most excited about the number of people that we were able to provide Christmas for because that is the time of the year that people are sad and really are missing Christmas gifts and food,” she said.

The Mount Airy Net operates out of Calvary United Methodist Church at 403 S. Main St. and Dean said the organization welcomes people who need assistance to get in contact.

‘‘Anybody that’s in need, we’d be more than happy to speak with.”

Mayor essay contestcoming back

Councilwoman Wendi Peters said at Monday’s Town Council meeting the town would again promote the ‘‘If I Were Mayor” essay contest, sponsored by the Maryland Municipal League.

Peters, who is the chair for the league's communications committee, and Mayor Frank Johnson will visit elementary schools to talk with students about the contes. They intend ‘‘to discuss town government and try to get the children more involved and get them to participate in the If I Were Mayor Contest,” she said.

Last year, the contest one of the contest winners was from Mount Airy.

‘‘We’re hoping this year to be able to duplicate that,” Peters said.