September 16, 2009 9:54:00 AM
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- On the same night the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a balanced budget and long-term plans to improve the city''s infrastructure, the board also voted 4-3 in favor of a utility rate increase for customers of the Starkville Electric Department.
The 3.2 percent rate increase will go into effect Oct. 1. For an average residential customer, the rate increase will equal an extra $2.25 per month, depending on usage, SED General Manager Edd Hattaway said. It also will bring approximately $1.02 million in increased revenue to the Electric Department.
The increase was necessary to meet contractual requirements with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Hattaway said. The Electric Department is required to have funds totaling at least 5 percent of its annual operation and maintenance costs at any given time in case of a natural disaster, he said.
Five percent of the Starkville Electric Department''s annual costs would total about $1.8 million, Hattaway said. At the end of the Electric Department''s 2008-2009 fiscal year, which ended June 30, the SED only had about $800,000, he said.
"We feel like this (rate increase) would get us stabilized and meet TVA''s requirements," Hattaway said.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr. voted against the rate increase, citing increased costs of living, taxes and other monetary struggles among constituents.
The SED rate increase came after aldermen approved the city''s 2009-2010 budget, which included no tax increase, and a revised capital improvement plan.
The city previously had a four-year capital improvement plan, but voted Tuesday in favor of a 10-year plan as part of a long-term planning approach.
The 10-year plan will repave about 39 miles of roads, plus allocate funds for improvements to sidewalks, curbs and gutters, drainage systems and recreational facilities, such as walking and biking paths. The improvements will cost $11.35 million.
Some of the funds -- $100,000 -- are designated for engineering and other costs related to the Lynn Lane multi-use path, which has been in the planning stages since 2005, but over the past year has fell by the wayside. Funds also are designated to plan and build multi-use paths along the sides of Reed Road and Hospital Road.
Mayor Parker Wiseman was a major proponent of the multi-use path projects, saying they would allow more citizens to use alternative forms of transportation.
"Personally, I think the people of Starkville are ready to be a more pedestrian-friendly, biker-friendly city," Wiseman said.
"I think (the multi-use paths) paint a marvelous picture of who we are and who we want to be as a city," he added later.
The Board of Aldermen Tuesday also approved the second $3 million bond issue in as many years. The previous Board of Aldermen approved a $3 million bond issue for infrastructure improvements with the option to issue another $3 million this year, which is what aldermen approved Tuesday.