The East Bethel City Council on Dec. 5 voted 2-1 to approve contract adjustments proposed by Metropolitan Council that will lessen the immediate financial impact of the city’s water and sewer bond repayment schedule.
The adjustments include: moving the initial year for sewer access charge (SAC) collection from 2012 to 2013; reducing initial projected SAC goals by half but later accelerating the goals’ rate of increase; “grandfathering” the Village Green Mobile Home Park into the system if the city can acquire its treatment facility; reducing initial SAC rates but accelerating the rates’ annual increases; and allowing the city to defer payment for either five or 10 years, which the city must decide on in 2017.
In effect, the adjustments backload the city’s payments to the later half of the schedule, hopefully providing the city with more time to attract development and establish a customer base.
However, the adjustments will also result in accrued interest charges to the city in the amount of an estimated $284,436 if the city opts to defer payments for five years or $585,628 if the city chooses the 10-year deferment.
The decision was not without some controversy.
Councilmember Robert DeRoche initially made a motion to table the decision until after the first of the year so that the new full council could vote on it in January.
“Seeing as how we’re supposed to have five members here and this is a pretty big decision, I think we should have five members here,” he said.
Mayor Richard Lawrence and Councilmember Bill Boyer were not present at the Dec. 5 meeting.
“Did you not already have the discussion on this though?” asked Councilmember Steve Voss.
“I don’t think all five people have been present at any time that we’ve had this [discussion],” said Councilmember Heidi Moegerle. “When was the last time we had five people here?… I think that this is something that everyone should be on the record for.”
“I mean, this is the third time it’s been on the agenda now,” said Voss. “Again, if you want to keep deferring things and can’t make decisions, fine.”
“This thing here is pretty important and it’s going to have a lot of effect,” said DeRoche. “Now whether I’m here after the next two years doesn’t matter; there’s two more people coming in… and maybe they should have some say-so in this.”
“That’s about as weak a cop-out I’ve ever heard,” said Voss.
“Call it what you want,” said DeRoche.
DeRoche’s motion to table the decision failed for lack of a second.
After some further discussion, Moegerle made a motion to approve all five of the contract adjustments with “special emphasis that principal and interest charges be paid down as financially feasible and that pay down is a high priority.”
Voss eventually seconded the motion.
Moegerle and Voss voted in favor of approving the contract adjustments; DeRoche voted no.