The Town of Frankford held its yearly budget hearing on Monday, June 28. This was the second budget hearing for the proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year.
Kicking off the hearing, Town Administrator Terri Truitt read a letter from Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader, explaining how a budget ordinance may be adopted, in response to a resident’s previously voiced concern over the legality of the proposed water rate increase in the budget.
“From time to time, the water rates have been amended either by a separate ordinance or by the budget ordinance in order to meet the department requirements. Either method is legal,” Truitt read.
Members of the public commented for more than an hour, mostly in opposition to the new water rate and expressing concerns about water quality.
Engineering consultants URS and the Delaware Rural Water Association (DRWA) conducted two independent water-rate studies for the town, and each company gave its own report and recommendation for the new water rate.
The town reviewed the recommendations offered by both firms: $8.40 per 1,000 gallons by DRWA and $8.75 per 1,000 by URS, which will cover the start-up budget for the town’s new water plant, at $234,213. The rate would replace the town’s current water rate of $5 per 1,000 gallons.
The new water rate was the biggest concern of residents attending the hearing.
Resident Judy Stevens voiced her concern that the rate increase was especially unfair due to the poor water quality at her home.
“How can you put a new tax on water when it’s unfit to drink?” she asked. “Our water is yellow, it has an odor to it, and it has ruined the ceramic tile in my shower, my new toilets. I can’t get them clean, no matter what I use. Now you’re going to tax on something that I can’t even use. I can’t wash white clothes,” said Stevens.
Councilman Jesse Truitt offered residents his assurances that, once the new town water plant is fully operational, an improvement in water quality will be noticed.
“I’ve been on here since the whole get-go of the water plant. Right now, they have it turned on and they’re flushing it all out. By the end of the month, it should be fully online. You should see a great change in your water,” said Truitt.
“This new system, with the green sand and the way it goes with the new filters in there, you’re going to see a big change in your water,” he continued. “It’s going to take about two or three months to get everything out of the line.”
Resident Gerry Smith asked what the town was doing in order to save money, to which council members responded by noting that town employees have not received a pay raise in four years.
Another resident suggested the town request a voluntary tax-deductible donation to help with the start-up and cost of operation for the new plant, in order to avoid the rate increase. Council questioned the viability and fairness of that scenario.
Council President Greg Johnson spoke to residents present at the June 28 meeting, stating that he, too, was not pleased with the new water rate but that such an increase is necessary and unavoidable.
“I have to pay the same bills you guys have to pay when it comes to water, and I don’t want them to go up either. But unless you have some suggestion as to how we’re going to pay for this water plant, I’m all for it.”
After the billing date of July 1, the new water rate will be applied to any water bill.
The proposed budget for Frankford for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, was accepted by the council on a 5-0 vote.