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County to absorb garbage increase

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

In a 5-1 vote, the Henry County Fiscal Court voted last week to leave garbage rates as they are — $19 — for county residents.

For the last three years, the court has voted to absorb the price increases — which are set in the county contract with Rumpke — in an effort to prevent price increases on residents.

That means that the contracted 40-cent increase for this year will come out of the franchise fees. Currently, the county receives $3.25 for each pickup Rumpke makes. In absorbing the increase, that franchise fee will drop to $2.85, representing a drop of $5,000 in revenue.

“I hate to raise anything on anybody right now, the way times are,” Magistrate Scott Bates said.

Magistrate Nick Hawkins cast the lone vote against leaving prices at their current level.

“Before I came on the board, the county was having serious financial problems,” he said. “(Mandatory garbage) was passed in an effort not only to clean up the county, but to put the county’s fiscal house in order.

“There’s only so much we can cut. To do this year after year, eventually the revenue is going to be gone. And I think we’re almost running out of room to cut without taking a serious decrease in the services we provide to the community.

“I understand we don’t want a customer’s bill to go up.”

Magistrate David Brown contended Hawkins’ argument that mandatory garbage was intended for revenue. “It was not a money making thing, but to clean up these (illegal) dumps, which we’ve done,” he said. “And we’ve come out with a little money in our pockets.”

Hawkins maintained that if the magistrates continued to absorb the increases, “it’s going to be increasingly difficult to operate on a balanced budget.”

 

Also during last week’s Fiscal Court meeting:

More than a month after the Henry County Sheriff tangled with members of the Fiscal Court over the issue of cutting budgeted overtime, the sheriff’s budget  was approved, but without the changes the court requested.

In the budget submitted to the fiscal court last week, Sheriff Danny Cravens reduced his overtime not by $10,000 as members of the court had requested, but by about $1,500.

Cravens added to the projected receipts, upping his expected excess fees by more than $14,000 to $21,675 for 2013.

Cravens told the court that simply because there’s $11,900 in the overtime line item, not all of it will be used. “Just because it’s there, does not mean we’re going to use it,” he said.

The court approved the first reading of the budget, which will be considered again on Dec. 18 for its second reading.

During discussion of the budget, however, Henry County Judge-Executive questioned Cravens about negotiations he may be conducting regarding a storage building owned by New Castle.

Cravens said nothing about the sheriff’s department’s possible use of the building — located next to the New Castle Fire Department — was certain. He said he was exploring the idea in order to have a place to store evidence, particularly large evidence like 4-wheelers.

Brent, however, was concerned in part because the county stores its mobile command post in the building, at no charge by agreement with New Castle.

“We haven’t gotten that far,” Cravens said. “I was under the impression that the mobile command post was only going to be put in there for a short period of time, not a long period. And the fire department was under that impression. If they don’t want to give it up, that’s fine with me.

“I’m not trying to push anybody out.”

Brent said the county’s emergency management director, Bruce Owens, had asked Brent at one point to build a garage for the MCP, but he declined. “I wouldn’t spend the money and do it,” Brent said. “I just wanted to bring that up tonight, that’s one of those things that’s cause and effect.”

He said that should the sheriff’s department reach an agreement with the city to rent the building, that’s one expense, and then the county would have another expense in trying to store the MCP.

Cravens too had asked for a fenced in enclosure at some point, but was turned down.

 

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