Council listens to information on electricty, debates park closings
The majority of the Tuesday meeting of the Wayne City Council meeting was spent on two agenda items - the price customers will pay for electricity and the city's parks and camping grounds.
Andrew Ross, Director of the non-profit agency Nebraska Municipal Power Pool, spoke at length on findings of the city's Electric Cost of Service Study that has been recently completed.
He told the council that the study looked at three areas - debt coverage, net operating income and cash.
"This document is a robust picture of the city's electric department and now is a good time for the city to give us direction on where we should go from here. The city is the rate making authority. We will offer advice and show projections on what will happen if the city does nothing. Ultimately, that would result in the negative net operating income."
Ross recommended an average increase of 4.3 percent for electric customers, but noted that it is not an emergency to put the increase in effect immediately. Instead, he recommended the increase go into effect in January.
He also encouraged the city to look at the large discrepancy between the city's summer and winter electric rates.
"The electric department is a business and the city needs to make adjustments over time. This is a moving target and we need to make sure we are covering the cost of service," Ross said.
Considerable debate was held on changing the city code in regard to open hours for city parks, camping time limits and penalties for violations of the laws.
It was noted that the city does not have laws in place at the present time to deal with a situation that is currently taking place at one of the camping parks. A camper has made the park a somewhat permanent residence and is 23 days delinquent in making the camping fees.
Information was also presented on activities taking place in city parks, particularly those with bathrooms, and the advantages to having closing hours at these parks.
Police Chief Marlen Chinn said he feels it would be beneficial to take a pro-active approach to dealing with situations that take place in these parks.
"Without rules, we (the police department) can't do anything," Chief Chinn said.
Council member Cale Giese spoke on denying those who wish to use the parks late at night the opportunity to do so.
"We aren't criminals," Giese said of those who may have different schedules than 'normal' and use the parks at different times.
Following a lengthy discussion involving various scenarios, and information from Chief Chinn, Ordinance 2018-24 was tabled until additional information can be gathered. The council's goal is to have an ordinance in place prior to the 2019 camping season.
During the meeting the council took the necessary steps to approve the city's budget for the coming fiscal year.
City Finance Director Beth Porter presented information to the city, noting that there were only minor changes from the numbers presented at the city's August budget work session. She told the council that the city's valuation is higher than anticipated and this will allow for a larger amount of money to be put into the city's cash reserves.
The final levy will be slightly less than last year. The city's fiscal year 2018-2019 budget takes effect Oct. 1, 2018.
Ordinance 2018-23 received second reading approval. It will amend the city code in regard to fences and screens on private properties in the city.
City Attorney Amy Miller explained the process of changing the code and suggested that wording be added to allow for a waiver, on a case by case basis, to have a fence higher than six feet, but no more than eight feet. Miller explained that the code deals with the shape of a piece of property, rather than an individual owner.
Mayor Jill Brodersen read a proclamation in regard to the month of September being designated National Senior Center Month. She noted the Wayne Senior Center reinforces the dignity of those it serves and recognizes their contribution to the community.
In other action, the council approved a request for a Community Development Block Grant loan for Jason Sears Flooring in the amount of $50,000. The money will be used toward the purchase of the building at 904 Jaxon Street and will allow for the hiring of additional employees.
Jill Brodersen, Terri Buck and Bryce Meyer will represent the city of Wayne on the Recreation and Performing Arts Community Task Force following their appointments at the meeting.
They will join representatives from Wayne State College, Wayne Community Schools and Wayne County in looking at needs within the community and the feasibility of items such as an indoor swimming pool, gym and performing arts center. No plans for any of these facilities are being considered at this time, but the three groups will meet in a regular basis to discuss options.º
The council will next meet in regular session on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.