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City Council halves water bill increase

The Hendersonville City Council voted to save water customers a little money, very little.

The council on Thursday adopted a $29.2 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and in the process cut a recommended 5 percent water bill increase in half, to 2½ percent. The reduction will save city residents 60 cents a month and non-city users 93 cents a month.
The council voted 4-1 to halve the increase. Councilman Jeff Collis voted no, saying the 5 percent hike would better prepare the city for major utility projects it plans for the 2013-14 budget year.
The extra 2½ percent was "a very small amount" and would not be a burden for most city customers, he said.
To which Councilman Ron Stephens responded, "What impact, though, would that have on businesses that use a lot of water? A lot of our businesses are in tight shape right now."
The drop means the city will see $200,000 in utilities revenue instead of $400,000. The utilities department had planned to set aside the money to fund four multi-million-dollar utility projects scheduled for 2013-14.
The budget keeps the same tax rate, 41 cents per $100 valuation, funds the new streetscaping of the 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street, and funds merit pay raises for city employees.

"It was the first time in four years we've been able to do that and I know they appreciate it," City Manager Bo Ferguson said, thanking the council for that part of the budget.
In other highlights, the budget:


  • Allocates $50,000 for work on Berkeley Park.
  • Adds a $1 a month fee for garbage, recycling and leaf pickup.
  • Funds roof repairs on the city-owned former Grey Hosiery Mill.
  • Buys a new fire truck for $600,000 (replacing a 1974 model).

The City Council will hold a work session next month on options for a new fire station. The council had tentatively budgeted $1.98 million for the project but early design estimates have put the cost higher. The council is expected to choose between the options of renovating an existing building on city-owned land on Sugarloaf Road or building a new fire station.

The council made few changes in the budget that it had examined in detail during a budget workshop last month. It killed a $50,000 appropriation for a downtown core master plan, and voted to spend $5,000 on agribusiness development.

Earlier, Mark Williams, the CEO of the farm-promoting effort, told the council that agriculture accounts for 8,000 jobs and $371 million in income in Henderson County. The agribusiness agency asked for $10,000. "Look at it as an investment, one that should pay for itself several times over," Williams said. "And if it doesn't, cut us off."