Butler County Times Gazette
  • City Council removes excess watering fees

  • After reviewing total water usage totals, Augusta City Councilor Matt Malone made a motion to remove the fee for excessive watering for Augusta residents.
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  • After reviewing total water usage totals, Augusta City Councilor Matt Malone made a motion to remove the fee for excessive watering for Augusta residents.
    That measure passed unanimously and will become effective for the next billing cycle.
    Councilor Ron Reavis wasn't satisfied with merely rescinding the fees. His belief is that the restrictions are in place due to an emergency and, with usage dropping, that emergency no longer exists.
    "I may be going out on a limb, but these restrictions were passed because of an emergency and that emergency is over," he said. "We could do away with the restrictions."
    Several around the table Monday night agreed with Reavis's desire to remove the restrictions but disagreed that the emergency was over.
    "I disagree," Councilor Mike Wallace said. "The lake is still low and that is why we did that."
    City Manager Bill Keefer agreed that current usage wasn't an emergency but asked the council to consider the problem they might create if restrictions are lifted too soon.
    "No one wants to lift these restrictions more than me," Keefer said. "But if we take them off now and there is a big rush to reseed and replace sod in lawns, a lot of water will be used."
    Keefer said that if March 2013 gets here and there was no water because it was used this fall and there has still been inadequate rainfall to refill the lake, the restrictions the council would have to consider would be far worse.
    "In my opinion – for those considering it – putting in a new lawn right now or overseeding is not a wise investment," Keefer said.
    Councilor Mike Rawlings said he also had concerns about keeping water in the system due to work the city is performing during this non-peak usage time.
    "We are getting ready to take the one million gallon tank (at the water treatment plant) offline for months," Rawlings said. "If we turn loose on the restrictions, I am concerned about being able to get enough water into the system."
    Reavis said he could see the point on the lawns, but the restrictions covered more than just lawn watering.
    "Are people washing their cars really going to create that much of a problem," Reavis asked.
    With no copy of the actual restrictions available, Reavis said he would find the document and decide if he wanted to make a motion to at least modify the restrictions at the next meeting on Oct. 15.
    (See usage charts).
    City's audit report
    The City of Augusta received another positive audit report Monday night from Aaron Iverson with Edward B. Stephenson and Co. CPAs.
    Page 2 of 2 - "There was certainly nothing alarming to anyone on the management end," Iverson said.
    Most of the results of the audit are noted annually but the expense of bringing the city into compliance with audit rules is greater than the risk they pose to the city.
    The swimming pool and Santa Fe Lake taking in money offsite are typical concerns for auditors. However, the city staff tracks these deposits closely to insure all funds are handled properly. There were two issues on this year's audit that were new.
    Both have been addressed and shouldn't be a problem for the city again.
    The city was in violation of a state statute when their legal publication about a public hearing was not published 10 days before the hearing in the Augusta Daily Gazette.
    The newspaper was at fault.
    "We are aware that the violation was a result of a failure by the paper, but it still has to be listed as a violation," Iverson said.
    Even though the city was not at fault, corrective measures have been taken to insure it will not happen again. Similar measures were taken at the newspaper to prevent future mistakes.
    The only other issue came when the city failed to comply with a state statute that requires a bond from a contractor when projects exceed $100,000.
    City staff took responsibility for the one-time violation and will make sure bonds are received before work is done on major projects in the future.

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