Starting next month, Williamsburg water customers will start seeing a $3 fee for 911 service on their bills.
The Williamsburg City Council unanimously voted during its regular monthly meeting Monday to begin placing the fee onto water bills.
Mayor Roddy Harrison said that city attorney Kim Frost will draw up an ordinance to add the fee onto city water bills and a couple of special meetings would likely be held later in the month to approve it so the fee can start being added to bills, which will go out on March 6.
Last March, the fiscal court voted to replace the 911 tax on landline telephones with a $3 fee that would be added onto all water bills in the county.
Williamsburg is the last water district in the county to start adding the fee onto its water bills.
Harrison said that it is the city’s stance is that counties do not have the right to impose an ordinance on a city.
“That is our issue. Right now it is in litigation in another county. Another city has sued a county. There has not been a decision made to say whether it is legal or not,” Harrison explained.
He said the city wanted to avoid adding the 911 fee on its water bills until a court specifically ruled on the matter.
Harrison said that to his knowledge, the only ruling related to this is one where the state supreme court said fees could be added to a tax bill.
“This is the position we have taken. There have been a lot of things come across. We have discussed it. We feel that just for the sake of cooperation, we will go ahead and do it,” Harrison said.
He said the city plans to write its own ordinance regarding the 911 fee, which will explain that the city doesn’t feel the county has a right to add the fee onto city bills.
“In my mind, why couldn’t the city turn around and put a fee on the county? We are two equal governments. We don’t want to go there with it,” Harrison said. “What we are going to do is make our own ordinance putting the fee on. The ordinance will also say we will continue to pay this way until we find another and a better way to pay for it.”
Harrison said that he thinks a better way would be for the fee to be added onto electric bills, which everyone pays.
Frost said the city is hoping that the judge hearing the litigation in the other county will give some guidance in regards to what bills the fees could be added onto, such as water bills, utility bills and so forth.
Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. attended Monday’s council meeting but didn’t speak out about the 911 fee issue during the meeting.
“I am pleased to see that a resolution is coming on that issue. It needed to be resolved. This is a valuable service that the county provides to the city, and hopefully we will continue to provide that for years to come,” White said after the meeting.
During Monday’s meeting, the council met in executive session for about 30 minutes prior to voting on the 911 issue.
Harrison said the purpose of the executive session was to discuss litigation that is pending involving the city. He said the litigation involving the lawsuit by another city against another county over the 911 fee on water bills was one of the things discussed during the executive session.
“I wanted to fill in the council about what I have heard on the litigation involving the city versus the county,” Harrison said.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the council:
• Discussed the status of alcohol sales.
In the month of December, there was $111,039.75 gross in packaged alcohol sales, and $10,114.44 in alcohol by the drink sales at restaurants. This resulted in $5,682.95 in alcohol tax revenue for the city.
These numbers don’t include proceeds from distilled spirit sales, which will come from the two liquor stores expected to open in town this year.
One of the liquor stores will open in the space currently occupied by World Finance in the Cumberland Regional Mall. World Finance is moving into the space formerly occupied by Radio Shack, Harrison said.
Harrison said he expects that liquor store to be up and running in about four months.
The other liquor store will be built across the street from Wal-Mart as part of a strip mall. Harrison said that construction should begin on it this spring, but he isn’t sure how long it will take to complete.
• Discussed the addition of 11 street lights around town. Councilwoman Mary Ann Stanfill noted that the new lights on South Second Street were “very much needed.”
Harrison noted that Briar Creek Park is now better lit at night, but that the city is in the process of trying to get all of the playground equipment lit up at night.
• Announced that the first community yard sale of the season would take place on March 4 at the Williamsburg Tourism and Convention Center. It is sponsored by the Williamsburg Kiwanis Club.
Harrison said that about nine or 10 community yard sales are scheduled this year at the tourism center.
Harrison said that while he loved the idea of doing community yard sales downtown around the courthouse, it never really caught on, especially when the temperature approached 100 degrees. When the city moved its last community yard sale last year to the tourism center though, participation and attendance exploded, he added.
• Discussed the planned opening of Senture in the old Wal-Mart building at Cumberland Regional Mall.
Harrison said that the company is in the process of hiring the first 40-50 people and is renovating the building.
He said that he doesn’t know if the company will eventually hire 500 people, which was a goal, but he is hoping that happens.
“It is a wonderful opportunity,” White noted.
Councilwoman Laurel West added that Senture is constantly posting updates about job openings on its Facebook page.
• Announced that Williamsburg has been chosen to host the junior and senior little league girl’s state softball tournament in July.
Councilwoman Patty Faulkner, who couldn’t attend the meeting in person, but participated via speaker phone, said that this would bring five or six teams into Williamsburg.
“They bring a huge crowd with them. This will be huge to showcase Williamsburg,” she added.
• Discussed the Whitley County Historical and Genealogical Society.
West noted that the roof on the group’s museum is in terrible shape and will cost $20,000 to $25,000 to replace.
West said that she has started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the roof replacement, but added that if someone wants to make a donation through another means that they could drop a check off at the Whitley County Public Library.
She added that it would be nice if the city and county could contribute to that cause.
“It is awesome if you haven’t been in there,” West said.
• Approved a resolution commending the Kentucky General Assembly for passage of House Bill 3 during the 2017 regular session, which repeals prevailing wage on projects exceeding $250,000.
Harrison noted that if this law had been in place when city hall was constructed then it would have saved the city several thousand dollars.