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by Mark Cheffey
The Palmyra City Council voted to place three issues on the upcoming April 5 General Municipal Election ballot during the regular meeting last Thursday.
In addition, the council voted to expand its line of credit with a local bank,sell a small city-owned property and heard from a natural gas supplier who clarified a recent boost in gas bills locally.
By unanimous votes, the council approved the three ballot issues for placing on the April ballot:
Proposition 1, which would change the city charter to eliminate the need for having proposed ordinances be read in their entirety during two open council meetings prior to approval;
Proposition 2, which would remove all references to the title of municipal judge; and
Proposition 3, which would raise the annual city business license fee from $10 to $25.
Reading out loud entire ordinances at two successive meetings, something very rare if not non-existent among cities, was deemed unnecessary by the council.
Meanwhile, the city transferred municipal court proceedings to the associate circuit court, eliminating the need for the municipal judge position.
The city business license fee has not been raised since it was instituted in 1993 and was considered in need of boosting in order to recover increased costs.
The council also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign paperwork to expand a line of credit loan with HOMEBANK to help the city pay for grant-funded projects.
City Attorney James Lemons told the council an existing line of credit to pay for Warren Head Business Park improvements would soon run its course to the point the city could expand it to include funding for the soon to be completed two new water wells.
The city will receive federal funding to pay for the well pumps to replace those damaged by flooding in 2019, but the city will need to pay for the projects upfront until the FEMA funding comes through.
After failing to act on two bids received for the purchase of city property owned on East Water during the last meeting, the council voted unanimously to sell it to the high bidder, Constance Patre, for $3,500.
The council considered the bids received to be too low, but Mayor Rusty Adrian asked the council to reconsider the bids and take action on them.
J.R. Derksen, manager of the central region for Liberty Utilities, talked to the council about the recent rise in natural gas bills.
The Missouri Public Service Commission approved in November a boost for residential customers in the northeast district of Liberty’s service area from 19 cents per hundred cubic feet to approximately 60 cents.
Derksen said, the increase, which will last for a 12-month period, was the result of many factors, including costs resulting from Winter Storm Uri last February and that it is a refection of the costs charged to Liberty by its suppliers.
“This is not beneficial to us either,” Derksen said of the increase he said was out of Liberty’s control.
The wellhead cost of natural gas is unregulated, Derksen said, and is primarily driven by supply, demand and the weather.
Derksen indicated the northeast district as well as the midwest in general, fared better than other areas in the country as far as gas prices are concerned, indicating some, like places in Colorado, are seeing prices as high as $1.16.
He was also hopeful that natural gas prices will improve after the current Actual Cost Adjustment factor period is over at the end of November.
Council members discussed seeking the implementation of a room/bed tax in light of reports that several bed and breakfasts are being started up in Palmyra.
Lemons said the city has never had a bed/room tax and indicated that passage of one would effect the city’s lone motel.
There was also discussion about the possible need for a tax to fund inspections of motels and B&Bs in order to protect those who utilize them.
Council member Andrew Salsman, chairman of the Street and Alley Committee, said members met to discuss storm water issues including the need for increasing the size of the Jackson Park golf course’s detention pond and installing a drainage pipe in the area of Sloan and Buchanan streets.
The committee also discussed consulting with engineers about runoff issues in the Bailey and Stanley street area.
Brent Abell, BPW superintendent, reported to the council his department was still awaiting parts to get the city whistle operating again.
Doug Meyers, parks & recreation director, reported grant funding is being sought to help fund a new walking trail for which the parks department received a memorial donation from family of Dr. John Hutcherson.