FINCASTLE – A small base-rate increase is possible to users of the town’s water and sewer services after a brief discussion during the Nov. 12 Town Council meeting.
The rate hike averages about 70 cents monthly, said Town Manager David Tickner. Customers using 3,000 gallons each month could see their bill increase from $67.37 to $68.07, while those using 5,000 gallons the bill could go from $88.95 monthly to $89.65, he told council.
Tickner explained that over the last few years the town has increased monthly bills slightly, ranging from the low of no increase in 2018 to 4 percent in 2017.
During the brief discussion on the hike, a member of the public asked if another increase was necessary.
“Yes,” replied Mayor Mary Bess Smith.
“The town didn’t have a rate increase from the 1970s to the mid-1990s,” she explained. “When the town did have an increase, it was large. Now, the prudent thing to do is to rate increase annually,” she said.
Smith explained the town’s water and sewer infrastructure is getting older, meaning more money spent for upkeep and increase costs of running the water authority necessitate a small base-rate increase.
The town could also increase the hook-up fee from $9,000 to $12,000, said Tickner, adding the possible new cost is below the average fees charged by other municipalities in Virginia.
A public hearing is being scheduled for customers on the town’s water and sewer system.
In other action, council approved a resolution declaring a local emergency to allow all public meetings related to town business to be held virtual, mirroring other governmental meetings in Botetourt County.
The resolution originally applied to the town’s Planning Commission, but after discussion on the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases reported in the county, the resolution now includes any public meeting, including Town Council.
However, Tickner said, “At this time we aren’t saying Town Council will have virtual meetings.”
While the three towns in Botetourt County are currently holding in-person council meetings, all either cancelled meetings or were strictly virtual in the past. Buchanan started offering a call-in option for the public attending its monthly council meetings virtual in March and continued in April and May. For larger public meetings – June’s budget hearing and August’s public hearing for a Special Use Permit – the Buchanan Theater was used. Buchanan Town Manager Jason Tyree said he expects the town will continue to use the call in-option “for the foreseeable future.”
Troutville cancelled a council meeting during the height of the outbreak, but now follows social distancing guidelines during in-person council meetings, said Carol Lemons, the town clerk.
Virtual meetings are subjected to the same rules and regulations as regular meetings. The five-page resolution reads, in part, that all public meetings held virtually shall be open to the public and minutes of the meetings shall conform to required law.
The resolution was unanimously approved.
The next Fincastle Town Council meeting is slated for Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Old District Court Meeting Room.