PUC dismisses city’s complaint over sewer service hike

Posted by : admin | On : July 13, 2017

The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell Mayor Warren Claxton (right) presents a plaque of appreciation to Duane Smith, for his service on the city council.

The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Mayor Warren Claxton (right) presents a plaque of appreciation to Duane Smith, for his service on the city council.

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
STAR HARBOR—Star Harbor Mayor Warren Claxton told a full room of his fellow residents that the city’s filings before the Public Utility Commission had been dismissed. “A technicality in the form of the application caused the dismissal,” Claxton explained. Star Harbor has a different law firm handling its legal work now, he indicated after public comments. “Whoever was responsible for the application ought to have his feet held to the fire,” Rick Koziol said in closing public comments.
The city is in contention with the City of Malakoff over a sharp rise in the cost of wastewater treatment. Star Harbor produces its own drinking water and is moving forward on building its own wastewater treatment plant.
Former councilman O.R. Perdue presented the quarterly and semiannual report on water and wastewater expenditures. Since January, the city has paid its customary $3,400.41 monthly billing to the City of Malakoff and a much larger amount into an escrow account. The payments total $20,402.46 for wastewater treatment and $98,076.18 toward escrow, totaling $118,478.64 or a monthly payment of $19,746.44 for the community’s 420 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
At the end of 2016, the City of Malakoff presented a new service contract to Star Harbor, representing a 600 percent-plus increase in service charges. The city has repeatedly asked for an explanation of the new charges, a meeting to discuss the new contract and has sent representatives to the City of Malakoff City Council meetings without gaining any response.
The City of Malakoff attorney Hank Skelton to date has not responded to The News queries on this matter, nor has any council member. Since January, Star Harbor has continued to pay the amount it was paying under the former service contract and deposited the balance in an escrow account. After listening to legal advice from a resident who has an active law practice, the council felt that paying according to the new contract would be tacit agreement with the new contract, so in lieu of that an escrow account was set up. It was hoped that the growing amount in escrow would induce the City of Malakoff to enter into a discussion with city officials.
In other business, the council:
• recognized the faithful service of Duane Smith, who most recently served as Mayor Pro-tem, filling in for Dr. Walter Bingham who had to step down due to health reasons. He has also served as a former mayor of the city and on the council for several terms. Smith was not returned to the council during the May 6 election. The council appointed Claxton mayor, since Bingham’s resignation came after the deadline for the May 6 ballot.
• amended Ordinance 165 to coincide with state law requiring slow-moving vehicles to exhibit a triangular caution placard on the rear. Golf carts being used primarily for transportation use will be required to carry the placard. Golf carts traveling strictly between home and the golf course for use on the course are exempt, along with carts kept strictly for use on the greens. Police Chief Todd Tanner explained the need for the amendment.
• discussed amending Ordinance 162 dealing with new construction in five areas, including landscaping, dumpster permit fee, signage, minimum square feet and short-term rentals. The council took a vote on each area separately after discussion and hearing extensive public comment and Building and Zoning Committee recommendations at the beginning of the meeting.
• tabled making changes to landscaping requirements, took no action to implement a dumpster permit, change the minimum building footage requirement of 1500 sq. ft. or change in signage rules, which now reads that only city signs may be posted on city property at the entrance of Star Harbor and other signs must be removed from private property within three days of the event and can’t go up more than three days before the event.
• on a 4-1 vote, approved short-term rental use of properties with the intent to set a workshop to regulate such use.
• heard four building permits were issued since the last meeting.
• recognized the work of resident Gay Morris in preparing the community newsletter which keeps residents apprised of local news and events.