Council Considers Fee Increase

BLYTHEWOOD – At Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Town Administrator John Perry suggested it was time for Council to raise the Town’s fees for both residential and commercial construction permits. He suggested raising the fees to be more in line with those charged by Columbia, Forest Acres and Richland County. The construction permit fee for a 2,500-square-foot home valued at $200,000 would go from the current $700 to $800. A permit fee for the construction of a 1,500-square-foot home valued at $100,000 would go from $175 to $400, an increase of $225. A permit for the construction of a 10,000-square-foot commercial building valued at $1 million would almost double from the current $2,366 to $4,655. Mayor J. Michael Ross agreed that it was time to adjust the fees.

“We need to do this now,” he said, “and move forward.”

Perry said the issue would come before Council in the next few months for a vote.

Park maintenance contract

In other business, Council voted to authorize the mayor to award a lawn care contract for the town park to Superior Lawn and Yard Maintenance out of Prosperity. Perry told Council that the Town received 12 bids for the three-year contact and that Superior’s bid of $20,162 per year for three years was the lowest and would include mowing, edging, fertilizing and maintaining the lawn in the park. Councilman Jeff Branham told The Voice that the contract will be re-evaluated at the end of each year

Budget review

In a discussion of the parameters of the 2014 budget, which must be approved by July 1, Perry presented an overview of the Town’s revenues in all funds. He said revenues overall are up 3 to 5 percent. While total ‘other’ revenues dropped from $153,000 to $95,000, Perry said that number reflects the end of several grants. He said the Town is also looking at more outsourcing instead of using full-time employees to be more effective and efficient. Four other meetings are scheduled (see below) for budget review and action during May and June.

I-77 landscaping

Perry reported that the S.C. Department of Transportation had extended the I-77 landscape contractor’s agreement to May 31. Perry reported that some of the trees had failed to thrive and needed to be replaced before the contractor, Pony Hill Nursery and Landscaping of Lexington, leaves the job. Perry said some weeding and mulching remain to be done as well.

Doko Manor rentals

Martha Jones, the Town’s Events and Conference Center Director, gave a report on the Doko Manor building rental. She passed out a chart that showed it will have been used at no charge by community groups 43 times through the end of May and will have been rented six times for graduation parties, wedding and baby showers, anniversaries and other private parties. She said she expects more rental activity in the coming months. Perry announced that the Town would initiate an enterprise fund to meet the future expenses of the Manor. Branham told The Voice that this fund would be necessary since the Manor was expected to be a significant revenue generator for the Town.

Farmers Market

Perry announced that the Town’s Farmers Market will open in the park on May 20, and will be open every Monday through October.

The following meetings are scheduled to review the Town’s 2014 Budget:

Planning Commission

• May 6 at 6 p.m. – Discuss the Town’s Capital Improvements Plan

Town Council

• May 13 at 6 p.m. – Review CIP, Personnel & Enterprise Fund for Manor

• May 28 at 7 p.m. – First Reading (vote) of FY ’14 Budget; Review Operating Budget & Other Sources and Uses

• June 10 at 6 p.m. – Public Hearing on Budget; Final Review of all funds

• June 24 at 7 p.m. – Second Reading (vote) of FY ’14 Budget

• June 30 – Start of audit of FY ‘13

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