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Toledo City Council report

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The Toledo City Council failed to pass a property tax increase due to a lack of support to bring the matter to a vote during their Nov. 18 meeting.

A one percent increase to the ad valorem property tax rate, which would have increased revenue to the general fund by $662 during 2014, received a motion for approval from Council Member Steve Dobosh but failed to receive a second and was not considered for either discussion or a vote.

Mayor Jerry Pratt said, while it would have been helpful to see the increase approved, the potential funding would not be great enough to harm the city by going without.

While council members did not state during the meeting their reasons for not bringing the matter to a vote, Council Member Nate Cook said afterward he was not in support of an additional tax increase, as Toledo had already increased the ad valorem rate last year, and said he would have opposed the increase if the matter had come to a vote.

Washington cities are allowed to increase their ad valorem rate by one percent each year without a vote of the people, similar to their ability to raise sales tax and utility taxes, and such increases are often proposed at the end of the year when budgets are being discussed.

Also during the meeting, the council heard a request from resident Kipp Coverdell regarding rental property Coverdell has recently acquired.

Coverdell has renovated an out-building on his property for use as a single-bedroom apartment and told the council he has been informed he must pay a $9,000 sewer/water hookup fee before utilities can serve the structure.

He said he did not understand the requirement as the building was already physically hooked into the system when he purchased the property, and City Clerk Michelle Whitten explained utility service to the building in question had been shut off in 1992 at the request of a previous property owner.

According to Whitten, the owner at the time intended to use the out-building for something other than a residence and requested the utilities be shut off so she would not have to pay the monthly fees. Because the previous owner requested the residence be removed from the system, city ordinance requires Coverdell to pay applicable hookup fees if he wishes service the building with utilities as a residence again.

Coverdell said $9,000 would not be a realistic additional expense as he has already spent thousands on renovations and currently has interested renters waiting to hear about the availability of the building.

Pratt said he would like to take the matter up with legal counsel before officially responding to Coverdell’s concerns, as Pratt said he did not know a way to cut Coverdell a break without defying city ordinance requiring individual hookups per residence or state laws against gifting public resources.

Coverdell said he would be willing to wait and see what compromise the city may be able to find, with Pratt stating he would intend to have a response by the next meeting.

In other utility news, Toledo has been informed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the city will have to commission a study of macro-invertebrates living in the outflow of their sewer plant in connection with an expected sewer plant upgrade.

The new $9.6 million plant Toledo expects to begin building next year requires a 50-foot extension of an easement for the outflow on state-owned property and DNR said the required study reflects changing regulatory standards and is expected to become routine as it is applied to more cities.

Neither Toledo nor engineering firm Gray & Osborne anticipated the study, as Toledo is the first city being asked to perform it under such circumstances, and an amended to the contract for services with Gray & Osborne needed to be approved as a result, which passed unanimously that night.

No indication was given by DNR how much the study would cost, but Whitten said it would be paid for out of loans already acquired for the upgrade, adding the study will not hinder the current timeline for the new plant.

The next Toledo City Council meeting will be Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. in City Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 864-4564.

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