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Kannapolis approves 2020 budget with increase for water and sewer

KANNAPOLIS – Though consistently divided during talks Monday, the Kannapolis City Council approved a budget and fee schedule that will see water and sewer rates increase as much as 11%.

The 4-3 decision – passed with council members Ryan Dayvault, Diane Berry and Doug Wilson dissenting – effectively raised water and sewer rates 65 cents per 1,000 gallons in usage. For Tier 1 users inside the city limits, this is an increase of 11% when compared to the current rate of $6.15 per 1,000 gallons.

For consumers outside the city, the increase is 9% compared to the current $7.30 per 1,000.

According to City Manager Mike Legg, an average monthly residential water and sewer utility bill for a customer using 4,000 gallons is anticipated to increase $5.20.

The numbers are half of those listed in the manager’s budget message – the result of a typographical error, Legg said after Monday’s meeting.

Legg said the increase would help offset the costs of $27.3 million water and sewer infrastructure project planned for the next three years. Projects planned for the 2019-20 year include sludge lagoon dewatering, Mooresville Road water main relocation and replacement, bulk storage replacement and Lane Street water relocation and replacement.

The 2019-20 projects will total $9.05 million, or $843,250 in annual debt service.

The council’s decision to approve the rate increase followed two other 4-3 split decisions: one to approve an amendment in the proposed budget, another to approve the amended or “alternate” budget.

The amendment moved $115,140 away from the city Parks and Recreation Department and into a contingency fund. The amount had been proposed for a new youth athletics program, which council members identified as a need during their annual retreat.

The budgeted amount would add a new staff member to the department as well as provide staff member and program supplies. But Mayor Darrell Hinnant said the town is in talks with the YMCA to explore a potential partnership that could meet the same goal.

And the YMCA had already hired a person to begin work on a citywide young athletics program, said Mayor Pro Tem Roger Haas – though Wilson said the “new” hire is instead a reappropriation of funds after a staff member retired.

“Why do we want to hire person right now that would duplicate their person is doing?” said Haas.

Haas and Councilman Tom Kincaid each pointed to a planned work group that included members of the YMCA, City Council and Kannapolis City and Cabarrus County school systems. The group is scheduled to meet on July 17 to discuss plans for the developing program.

It would be beneficial to wait and see what direction the group would want to go before allocating funds, Kincaid said.

But Dayvault disagreed.

“The kids in this town are in dire need of something more,” he said. “We can fund things that are beneficial to kids, to get kids off the street and get them into a program that’s beneficial to them. … We just can’t sit back and just hope that somebody else figures it out.”

Wilson spoke similarly, seeing no need to wait on funding the program through the city. He, Dayvault and Berry voted against both the amendment and the alternative budget, though each would pass with support from Haas, Kincaid, Hinnant and Vann Rowell.

“There are positives and negatives with this budget,” said Dayvault. “The positive is what we’ve been able to do with staff recruitment and retention. … Things I don’t like about it are this athletic director thing and the water rate issue, not addressing that through a phased approach. I wasn’t in favor of it before, and I’m still not in favor of it now.”

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