Charleston to consider raising fees

A bill introduced at Monday night’s Charleston City Council meeting would increase fire and refuse fees, bringing in an additional $3.1 million in annual revenue.

Fire protection fees would double, while the city’s refuse fee would increase from $15 per month to $20.

Mayor Danny Jones said during a finance committee meeting preceding council that Charleston’s unfunded fire and police pension liability is draining city funds that were once used to “subsidize” what low fees didn’t cover. Jones first announced his desire to raise those fees at a July 7 council meeting.

“This is going to happen with us or without us, because where we were paying 8 percent of our budget to these uniform service fees when I became mayor 12 years ago, we’re now paying 12 percent,” Jones said. “It’s not going to go down. It’s going to go the other way. It’s going to keep on going and going and going.”

Jones urged council members to approve the fee increases despite next year’s municipal election.

“It takes the politics out of it, but yet it puts the politics back in it,” Jones said. “If somebody wants to run for office next year for any of your jobs or for this job, and wants to say, ‘Well, I think you’re charging too much,’ well fine. Where are you going to get the money? That’s the question.”

Jones said increasing fees might also give the city the ability to give employees raises, which has happened once in the past five years.

If passed, the new fees wouldn’t go into effect until July 2015.

In other business, council:

n Passed a bill allowing left turns on Ruffner Avenue at Kanawha Boulevard.

n Passed two parking bills. One bill repeals an ordinance prohibiting parking on Virginia Street East from Bradford Street to 100 feet west of Bradford Street. Another bill eliminates a handicap parking area on the west side of Elm Street at Virginia Street West.

n Renewed a 10-year lease with the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal, Inc., for Smith Street Station. Council also accepted a West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund loan that will be used to upgrade the HVAC unit at the facility.

n Amended this year’s budget to include more than $60,000 for coal severance revenue.

n Approved the purchase of two ambulances for the Charleston Fire Department at a cost of $317,800.

n Allowed the city to enter into a $50,000 emergency contract with K & N Contracting, Inc., to fix the collapse of and landslide at Grandview Drive.

n Appointed Mary Jo Cleland to the Board of Zoning Appeals; reappointed Courtland Smith and Jim Lane to the BZA; and, appointed James Strawn to the Regional Intergovernmental Council.

Reach Rachel Molenda

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