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Council tables hookup fees

| April 29, 2005 12:00 AM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter

The Libby City Council on Monday tabled a resolution setting investment fees for new water and sewer hookups based on concerns that a clause in the underlying ordinance would result in existing utility customers being charged as well.

The council had previously passed the ordinance giving the city the authority to set fees for new hookups with the intent of providing a means to offset the cost of expanding the water and sewer systems when their current capacity is reached. The ordinance was based on a similar ordinance on the books in Columbia Falls.

At a special meeting on Monday to adopt a resolution setting a fee schedule to go along with the ordinance, Mayor Tony Berget pointed out a clause in the ordinance he interpreted as requiring existing residential water and sewer customers to pay a fee. The fee would be set at 70 percent of the rate schedule for new hookups - around $1,500 for water and $1,700 for sewer - resulting in a total assessment of around $2,300.

Councilman Stu Crismore, who researched the ordinance and rate schedule and made a motion to adopt the resolution, said that was not the intent of the ordinance; only new hookups were to be assessed the fee.

"I think before we pass this resolution we have to amend this ordinance," Berget said.

The ordinance was drafted by City Attorney Scott Spencer, who on April 12 submitted a letter of resignation effective April 30. Berget said Spencer, who was not present at Monday's meeting, based the ordinance on information provided by Crismore.

Crismore said he doesn't have the authority to tell the city what to do, "and I'm not going to take the heat on this one."

"If it's not done correctly it should have been caught before now," he said. "This thing has been put off and put off and put off, and as far as I'm concerned it's being railroaded off the front burner."

Councilman Doug Roll suggested the council might want to pass the resolution and address the issue with the ordinance later.

"I don't think anyone's going to volunteer to pay this, and we're not going to try and collect on it, so can we just go through this and put it on the agenda for next month?" he asked.

Berget and several other council members indicated that they would rather delay action on the resolution. Crismore withdrew his motion to pass the resolution.

Roll said someone should contact Columbia Falls to get clarification on that city's intentions behind the clause in question. The council agreed to place the ordinance on the agenda for its next regular meeting on Monday, May 2.