A proposal to increase the monthly surcharge on water bills from $3 to $5 to support city parks will be the subject of a public hearing when the Talent City Council meets at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall, 206 E. Main St.
The Parks Commission recommended the increase because of rising costs for maintenance and operations. A dollar of the increase would be set aside for parks capital improvement projects. The surcharge hasn’t increased since December 2007.
“We are just not going to be able to maintain our parks at an adequate level with the wages going up,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. “Minimum wage has gone up a great deal. We have been trying to manage as best we can.”
A $1 fee was set for parks in December 2005. Before then volunteers, including former mayors Don Steyskal and Marian Telerski, would take care of mowing lawns and other chores, said Ayers-Flood.
The $3 fee allowed for recreation programs, but as those dwindled the money was shifted to cover the rising cost of maintenance, said Ayers-Flood.
Taking money from the general fund for parks does not appear to be an option, said Ayers-Flood. She noted the city stopped a library surcharge a couple years ago when a library district was formed.
“Rather than tapping into the general fund, which is already overburdened, our direction is to recover the fees we eliminated for the library and move them over to parks,” said Ayers-Flood.
The City Council had requested the commission review recreation-related fees earlier this year. On Aug. 9, parks commissioners recommended an addition of $3 to the current monthly surcharge and that the fee be reviewed annually. An annual review of the charge is not included in the proposed ordinance.
The City Council and the commission held a joint study session Aug. 30, where city staff recommended the increase be $2 per month, and commissioners voted Nov. 8 to recommend the proposed ordinance.
The council will consider a first reading and approval of the ordinance Wednesday. A resolution establishing the fee schedule also will be considered. If passed, the ordinance and new fee would take effect Jan. 6.
The ordinance for the surcharge differs from the current one in that it describes reasons for the fee, how it is calculated and enforced. The resolution sets the actual fee. The city has made similar changes for other charges, including water rates.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.