Cities charge more for services

Despite a crowd of 35 to 40 people, the city of Claremont passed a budget Monday without any public comments or complaints.

After Claremont City Council members opened a required public hearing to the larger-than-usual audience, no one decided to speak, said Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick.

“The commissioners held the public hearing, and nobody came up to speak,” Barrick said. “The commissioners closed it, made a few comments and approved the budget.”

The new Claremont budget included increases in water and sewer rates for citizens. Increased rates will help pay for long-term infrastructure needs to the city, which include Claremont’s water treatment facilities, Barrick said.

The rate hikes will also cover increased operational costs to the city and will cost the average customer $3 to $4 more on their monthly utility bill, Barrick said.

Despite the increased water and sewer rates, Claremont’s property tax will remain at 46 cents per $100 of valuation for the sixth year in a row.

Barrick said he didn’t know if the lack of public comment was a good or bad thing.

“I don’t really know to take it as good or bad,” Barrick said. “I’m not sure if they are OK with the budget or not now.”

Barrick added that he was surprised at the amount of media attention given to the rate increases this year, but thought the publicity would prompt more citizens to speak. The city also placed informational “water bill inserts” in the mail this month notifying citizens about the increases.

“We felt like we had gone over and above at notifying the citizens, but we still didn’t have anyone come sign up to speak for or against it,” Barrick said.

Claremont’s Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget is mainly aimed at planning for the future, Barrick said.

“We looked at the budget from year to year, but wanted to take a holistic approach and say, ‘What does the city need over the next five years?’” Barrick told the O-N-E on May 27.

Catawba increases garbage rates

The Town of Catawba passed its budget Monday after hearing several comments from citizens that did not affect the budget the council presented, said Catawba Town Manager Brian Barnett.

“The big things are that the overall budget only increased by $68 from the time I presented it in May and the time it was approved.”

Catawba is increasing its sanitation fee, which will go from $4.50 to $11 a month. Barnett said the hike partly stems from a study completed by the N.C. League of Municipalities that found Catawba’s sanitation fee as the lowest for communities under 5,000 that conducted “in-house” sanitation.

“The council and I both agreed that we have an aging garbage truck, and the increased fee will hopefully replace that truck within the next five years,” Barnett said. “We have a 15-year-old truck, and before we had a 20-year-old truck.”

Barnett said the money from the increased sanitation fee would go completely toward a new truck.

Maiden sets hearing on budget plan

Maiden Town Manager Todd Herms updated the Town Council on its Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget Monday, including informing them about additional funding for tasers for the Maiden Police Department.

The council recommended that funding be added for tasers in May.

Maiden currently has no tasers within the department, Herms said. Herms added that Maiden Town Council also entered into an agreement with Catawba County Emergency Services on Monday to conduct fire inspections for the town.

Maiden will hold a public hearing about its proposed FY 2011-12 budget June 20.