Danville, Junction City talking water sale

August 08, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - The city has had closed-door negotiations to sell its water system to Danville.

Council members let that slip Thursday when they responded to questions from residents about the city's dire financial condition. The discussion, however, was quickly squelched by Mayor G.G. Harmon.

The city faces a $65,000 shortage this year. It ended the fiscal year with $240 and in October it had to cash its reserve $25,000 certificate of deposit to make ends meet. Council member Brad Murphy predicted that even with the proposed tax package, a 1 percent payroll tax, 1 percent net profits tax and $25 occupational license, it would get worse.

A newly formed group, Concerned Citizens for Junction City, asked for the meeting to propose an alternate plan for a $50 occupational license fee and a $20 city vehicle sticker fee.


Council member Connie Vernon told the residents that the city would still need a payroll tax to keep going.

The city will raise property tax from 14.5 cents to 14.8 cents per $100 of property evaluation, which is the maximum amount allowed this year by the state. Council members also said they would cut employee personal days, family insurance and overtime hours.

Murphy said that all the new taxes would carry the city for a while, but that their passage was a Band-Aid.

"Next year we'll be in the same place," he said.

President of the CCJC, Jimmy Cutter, began to get dismal.

"Maybe it's time to close the doors," he said. "If this is just a quick fix we might as well be standing out in the rain, it's silly for us to even be talking tonight."

City Attorney Hadden Dean explained that if the city loses its battery-chip cleanup lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency it will have to close its doors. The EPA used $800,000 in Superfund money to clean up lead-based battery chips in a neighborhood here. The federal program requires the agency to then try to recoup that money from parties that are responsible for the contamination.

"If that contingency hits the city it's over, done," Dean said.

The city has been strapped this year, in part, because it has had to pay an environmental law attorney $500-an-hour to defend it.

The city also has had to pay $40,000 -$50,000 in engineering fees to keep its failing sewerage system afloat. It still makes payments on the original loan it took out in 1974 for the system that now barely works.

Residents asked about selling the water system to Danville.

Harmon said once the city got some figures together they'd call a meeting at the elementary school and take a public vote on the issue.

"But we need to stop discussing what we're discussing," he said.

Public Works Director Carl Harmon said that the water department has been in the red the past two years. Residents of the city habitually complain about high water costs. Harmon said that the water deposit is $75, so if someone has a leak, it isn't uncommon for them to quickly run up a $200 -$400 bill, and then it is cheaper to move than pay it.

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