"I agree with the concept of it," said First District Magistrate Rick Smith. But Smith, like several on the court, expressed concerns over a number of provisions in the ordinance.
Under the proposed rules, potential developers in a watershed must decide up front whether to participate in a "privilege fee" agreement once the first developer in the watershed begins to build.
Participating members would build a line sized to serve the entire watershed, and apportion the cost based on the acreage of each of the participating member's development.
If additional developers later connect to the line, they would pay a charge based on the original construction cost, plus interest. The charge would allow the first participating members to recoup the upfront cost of the line.
Winchester Municipal Utilities would negotiate the details of each agreement at the time of construction. However, the ordinance stipulates that interest would be capped at the Wall Street Journal prime rate and would accrue for only 10 years. It also calls for agreements to expire after 50 years.
The Winchester Board of Commissioners gave the ordinance a first reading two weeks ago. Before taking effect however, the ordinance must receive a second reading from the commission and a first and second reading from the court. Several magistrates are asking for key changes to the measure before a vote is cast.
Opponents argued Wednesday that agreements should expire after 20 years and interest should only accrue for about four years. Critics fear that long periods of interest will allow early developers to reap huge profits on their sewer investments and price later developers out of the market.
"I personally feel like there should not be any interest tied to these projects," said one developer, Tom Norton, who spoke in opposition.
Some also contended that the Fiscal Court and the city commission should supervise agreements in addition to WMU.
"You do have your WMU Commission," said Fifth District Magistrate Pam Blackburn. "But I think those developers need someone else to weigh in, and I think it should be the legislative bodies."
WMU officials say the ordinance is not designed to help developers make money, and managing the agreements falls under the basic duties of the WMU Commission.
Still, magistrates want to discuss the details more with city and WMU officials before voting.
In other business,
- The court amended an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to provide additional funds to construct the Winchester Industrial Park access bridge over railroad tracks on Van Meter Road. The cabinet, which has already agreed to provide $2.8 million, has agreed to furnish up to an additional $1 million for the project.
-Court members approved a $1.28 million sheriff's budget for the 2009 fiscal year and set the annual amount that the office can spend on employees at $685,000. An amendment to the 2008 sheriff's budget was also approved.
- Harry Enoch, from the Friends of Lower Howard's Creek, gave a presentation on recent work and accomplishments in ongoing preservation efforts in the Lower Howard's Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve.
- A resolution was passed directing Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham to apply for a cemetery preservation grant.
- A salary and employment status change was approved for Todd Reece.
- Andrew Hampton, Steven Smith, Robert Brock, Steve Morris, Joseph Morgan, James Wells, Jacob Allen and Ashley McDonald were hired as volunteer firefighters. Robert Duffy, Shawn Steed, Jayme Hoskins and Michael Ledford were hired as part-time firefighters.
Contact Mike Wynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.