by David Croyle
In unison, Ford City Borough Council approved rate hikes in both garbage collection and water.
When questioned about the need to raise garbage rates by resident “Jabo” Klimkowicz, Councilman Ron Dillard said the increase is necessary to purchase a new garbage truck and make repairs to the water system.
“The reason we are paying for new truck is because the other one is rusted out from the acids of hauling garbage,” Dillard explained. “We have had the bottom repaired in this before. The frame is going. Numerous joints and compressing parts are shot. We are putting money into this truck all the time in order to make sure it is available to pick up garbage. We have been told that we need to replace it. That is what we are doing. We are replacing it so we can keep the services in picking up the extra TVs to help keep the town clean.”
“They are only supposed to pick up four bags of garbage each week from each residence,” Dillard continued. “I think the people here in Ford City are spoiled. If they have something other than four bags of garbage, it is still picked up and taken care of. We still have to pay tonnage when we go dump. We are servicing our residents. If we hold a hard line on what we pick up, you will see an accumulation of televisions, used baby apparatus, numerous odds and ends that will be left out in alleyways over the period of a year. Now you are dealing with clean situation although we are not doing what we’re not supposed to. I think you are getting good service for the dollars you pay. If we compare what you are paying here in Ford City to other municipalities that we are bordered by, we are very low in (the cost of) our services.”
Councilman Rob Mohney stated that if the Borough were to privatize garbage collection, it would result in the lay-off of “good borough employees.”
Dillard went on to clarify the need for increasing water rates.
“We’ve got an old water plant. It needs maintenance. We also have to follow DEP regulations. We haven’t been cited with a fine as yet, but the DEP has said we have to make certain adjustments of how we treat our water. This cost extra money. Right now we have very low rates. It makes it very difficult for us to deal with PENNVEST – who is the people we borrow money from – in order to get loans because they tell us water rates are too low.”
Dillard said the Borough was approached by other companies wanting to purchase the water plant and wells infrastructure.
“We have met with another municipality. We met with a private interest – people who would like to own our water. We looked at it. We can still deliver water cheaper than any of those other two groups that were interested in purchasing our water. If we chose to sell our water (plant), you are playing $22 now… you would be paying $42 per month with new company.”
Finance Chairman Paul Harmon said the price Dillard quoted was the low amount. He stated the actual amount could be above $50 and residents would also have to pay a hydrant fee of $100 per year.
“We made a decision to raise the water rates, make the renovations, and borrow the money in order to make some improvements to our plant and the infrastructure here in town in order to keep the rates as low as humanly possible for our residents.”
Mayor Marc Mantini criticized Council’s decision to increase rates.
“I can understand fees are going up on everything. Our budget is $2.2 million. That is roughly a 14% increase. This is tremendous hit for the people here. I understand there is $150,000 in uncollected water fees. The good people that do what they are suppose to pay their bills, pay their taxes, pay whatever is assessed to them – are carrying deadbeats almost $250K plus liens. Something has to be done to take burden off these people.”
“On a daily basis we are reviewing water bills,” Dillard assured the mayor. “The people who are delinquent are being shut off. We have some that have been delinquent for awhile. We have turned some of that over into a legal situation. We have aggressively addressed these delinquent bills. We have shut off and changed procedure on how we are dealing with delinquent bills. We looked when we were designing budget that we would be well over 60% retention of those bills that haven’t been paid. It is well under way. We have those issues changed over to magistrate. Some of those long term delinquencies are from rental properties that landlords are responsible for. The ordinance states that land owner is ultimately responsible for that water bill. We will have to go to court over those issues but deal with that as they come up.”
Dillard summed up Council’s decision.
“We don’t have a choice. Our backs are up against the wall. We either make these changes right now or get fined by the DEP. Either make the changes for the new garbage truck, or there’s gonna be weeks sometime that garbage is not picked up. When we think about these choices, this group of gentlemen (Borough Council members) took some hard choices and made the proper choices. We still are delivering services to the people of Ford City at the lowest possible rate across the board.”