By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
Several members of Portsmouth City Council expressed shock at a sewer rate increase announced by Mayor David Malone at Monday’s City Council meeting.
“I just wanted to announce to Council, and also to the press and the community, because of the deficit balance that is in the sewer fund, we have implemented a 10 percent sewage rate increase, effective Feb. 1 of this year,” Malone said. “And everybody will basically see the full impact in April or May of this year. The fund has been at a deficit balance. It was intended to have a rate increase last year. Obviously we didn’t get that done. It didn’t happen, so we basically needed to do it this year to address the deficit fund, again to meet the requirements of the state auditors.”
Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill said he would have appreciated discussion about the increase, and the mayor could have made Council aware of his plan.
“I’m shocked by the 10 percent increase you’ve announced in the last 20 minutes,” Sturgill said. “We had two budget hearings, and I thought that I paid attention. I don’t think I heard anything about an increase.”
City Auditor Trent Williams said the increase is included in the fiscal caution advisory report as a part of the plan for Fund 621. Williams said the issue simply wasn’t discussed at the budget meeting.
Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler also said he was surprised by Malone’s announcement.
“I know, with it being an enterprise fund, it is strictly up to you (Malone) to give the increases. On behalf of myself, and I am sure the majority of people in the Second Ward, I oppose that. I do understand why we have to do that as well.”
Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham said that while also surprised at the mayor’s move, he asked if the new sewer rate would still fall below the county’s rate. Malone confirmed that it would.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.