N.B. approves sewer, water rate hikes

Aldermen hear complaints about unleashed pit bulls

— The Board of Aldermen Thursday night approved 17 percent sewer and water rate increases spread over five years and heard complaints about unleashed pit bull dogs threatening the safety of citizens.

No one appeared for a scheduled Thursday night public hearing on proposed New Bloomfield sewer and water rate increases. The aldermen then proceeded to give first-round approval as well as second and third reading of an ordinance increasing water and sewer rates 5 percent this year and three percent each year for the next four years.

The newly enacted ordinance means water rates will increase from $16.08 in 2011 for the first 2,000 gallons to $16.88 this year. Rates will increase every year through 2016 to a total of $18.99 for the first 2,000 gallons.

Water rates also will go up by the same percentage through 2016 for every 1,000 gallons used over the 2,000-gallon base charge, rising from $4.57 for every additional 1,000 gallons in 2011 to $4.80 this year and up to $5.40 in 2016.

Sewer rates also are based on water used. Sewer rates will increase from $16.06 in 2011 for the first 2,000 gallons to $16.86 this year. Rates will increase every year through 2016 to total of $18.98 for the first 2,000 gallons.

Sewer rates will increase by the same percentage as water rates through 2016 for every additional 1,000 gallons used over the 2,000-gallon base charge, rising from $6.14 for every additional 1,000 gallons in 2011 to $6.45 this year and up to $7.26 in 2016.

The minimum water and sewer bill of $32.14 a month in 2011 will increase 5 percent to $33.74 this year. The minimum bill will increase 3 percent each year through 2016 to a total of $37.97 a month.

City clerk Tracina Shaw said no major improvements are planned in the city’s water and sewerage systems during the next five years but the rate hikes are needed to meet continuing annual increases in maintenance expenses.

The city clerk noted the city had not increased water and sewer rates since 2007.

The ordinance establishing new water and sewer rates was approved by a vote of 3-0, with Ward 1 alderman Paul Hilchen absent.

In other action, the alderman heard a citizen complaint from Lolly Robbins of New Bloomfield who said a neighbor’s dogs were running loose without a leash as required by a city ordinance approved last August. She said there are two pit bulls and a pit bull mix.

Robbins said she has been threatened four times by the dogs and she now is “packing a gun” when she goes out to get the mail or takes her dog out to walk.

“I’m not going to take this any more,” Robbins said, “and I am not going to give up. Those pit bulls will not kill my dog and I won’t be ripped to shreds. I was attacked again last night.”

Robbins said she had a neighbor who had a gentle pit bull a few years ago and she enjoyed having the dog around. “But now I am terrified by pit bulls.”

New Bloomfield Police Chief John Hatfield said in the last incident involving the pit bull and Robbins, the dog did not touch her but she was injured when she fell while trying to get away from the dog.

Robbins said she has a $700 ambulance bill and other expenses relating to the latest incident.

In an earlier incident, the owner of the pit bull running loose near Robbins was cited by New Bloomfield police for allowing a dog to run loose without a leash. The police chief said the owner pleaded innocent to the charge and indicated he wants a jury trial. Additional charges are pending relating to two other incidents involving the pit bulls.

Another New Bloomfield resident, Sara Janes, also asked to speak about the dog issue. She pointed out that she, her husband and five children have three pit bull dogs. She said the dogs are trained and are confined to a fenced yard and have caused no problems.

Janes said her family does not object to the ordinance approved by the aldermen last August but she was concerned about muzzling a pit bull dog. She said this disturbs all dogs if muzzled for long periods.

Mayor Terry Shaw pointed out that the ordinance does not require pit bull dogs to be muzzled if they are inside a fenced area or inside a house.

Another Callaway County resident who lives just outside the city limits also appeared to complain about pit bull dogs running loose. But Shaw said the city has no jurisdiction outside city limits and he would have to take his complaints to the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department.

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