The Highlands Town Board meets tonight at 7 p.m. at the Highlands Conference Center next to the ball field. Like in the past, the June meeting is one of the biggest meetings of the year.
Two public hearings are on the agenda. The first is on the proposed town budget for the coming fiscal year. After the hearing the budget will get final approval and go into place July 1.
The proposed budget contains substantial funding for road paving projects and a waterline replacement. Folks ask me when various projects will get underway, especially paving projects. After the budget is approved, staff will finalize contracts and call for bids. It takes anywhere from several weeks to months for these projects to begin.
Another part of the new budget involves a slight increase water and sewer rates. A board committee will recommend raising the minimum water and sewer fees by one dollar. Coupled with that increase will be an increase of the water usage amount for the minimum fee. That usage amount will double to 5,000 gallons per month. Also, there will be a slight, graduated increase in rates for customers that exceed the basic usage rate.
The budget keeps property tax rate at current levels, but the fire tax will increase 2 cents per $100 of property tax evaluation. The increase will go toward the purchase of the property and the construction of the new fire station on US 64 across from the post office. The increase will also be used to move toward 24/7 staffing of the department. How will the old fire house be used once the new one is completed remains to be determined. The good news is that the town will have options in addressing future needs.
The second hearing at the meeting will be to modify the Unified Development Ordinance in the areas of fencing, walls and habitable stories in non-residential districts. These changes are intended to clarify existing parts of the ordinances. The town staff continually reviews parts of the UDO as situations occur in order to ensure ordinance language is clear and unambiguous.
The board will also hear requests for end of the year budget amendments. One amendment will be to appropriate $150,000 as earnest money for purchasing land for the new fire station.
A major agenda item will be the traffic schedule amendment. The public safety committee has developed a plan to change speed limits on several town roads, especially in residential areas that are narrow and unmarked. These changes come from a request at the May meeting to lower the speed limit on Hickory Hill Road.
I will be making a presentation and requesting that the public works committee review and recommend changes to Chapter 12 of the Ordinance Code concerning trash collection. We have made no changes in this area since 1982. It is time to upgrade the way trash is collected, especially in the context of moving toward becoming a BearWise community.
See everyone tonight.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor