Council OK’s Grass Ordinance, Police Department Funds

RIDGEWAY (June 16, 2016) – Although one local resident urged Town Council to “take a step back” from the penalty included in a weeds and grass ordinance, Council unanimously passed first reading of the new law during their June 9 meeting.

The ordinance will require residents to keep weeds and grass in yards mowed to less than 1-foot in height. Residents found in violation would receive a 14-day notice, after which time the Town would mow the lawn and bill the resident. Anyone failing to reimburse the Town for the mowing bill would have a lien placed on their property until the balance was paid.

Dee Dee Ruff, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, told Council she felt placing a lien on someone’s property for tall grass “seems really extreme,” and she asked Council to reconsider that phase of the ordinance.

During discussion of the ordinance, Councilwoman Angela Harrison said she empathized with Ruff’s feelings on the penalty, but then added that the Town gives residents “plenty of opportunities” to maintain their own property.

Council will hold second reading during their July 12 meeting.

Council also passed the final reading to an amendment to its fire hazards ordinance, upgrading the fines for the accumulation on property of debris and other material deemed by the Fire or Police chief to be a fire hazard. The existing ordinance carries a penalty of $50 or 30 days in jail. The amendment contains a $50 fine for first offense and a $100 fine or 30 days in jail for second offense.

Police Department Funds

Ridgeway’s police officer, Christopher Culp, reported to Council the need to include a new line item in the Town’s budget to cover the cost of travel for training sessions. Culp also told Council the $200 line item for uniforms needed to be increased to $500.

Culp said he requires a total of 80 hours of ongoing training over the next three years in order to retain his certification with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Councilman Doug Porter recommended $600 for the new line item, leaving Council momentarily scrambling to find money within the 2016-2017 budget.

Mayor Charlene Herring suggested taking the money from the utilities line item, where Council had budgeted a little more than $6,000. That figure, she said, was based on last year’s utility bills, which she said should be lower once the Town replaces the old and inefficient air conditioning unit in the police station.

“I don’t think our utilities will be $6,000-plus a year when you get a new A/C unit in there,” Herring said. “You get that new unit in there and there’s the money right there. We could have saved money before now if it had been in there.”

Councilman Heath Cookendorfer, whose committee has been charged with obtaining a new air conditioning/heating unit for the police station, explained earlier in the meeting that efforts to purchase the unit had thus far been thwarted by poor communication. On two occasions, he said, representatives of the Town had been told by a Columbia retailer that the unit was available for pickup, but when they arrived, the unit was not in stock.

“We haven’t raised our millage rate since 2008,” Porter suggested. “That’s a source of income there.”

Council agreed, however, to lift $1,000 from the utilities line item to cover training and uniforms. That would leave the utilities budget at $5,316.

Water Rates

Council OK’d second and final reading of an ordinance to amend water and sewer rates in advance of the 2016-2017 budget. In-town residential water rates will go from $15.10 to $15.25 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $5.17 to $5.25 for overage costs. Out of town residential rates will go from $20.10 to $20.50 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $6.42 to $6.50 for overage costs.

In-town commercial rates will go from $18.10 to $18.50 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $5.17 to $5.25 for overage. Out of town commercial rates will go from $23.10 to $23.50 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $6.42 to $6.50 for overage.

In-town residential sewer rates will go from $12.10 to $12.25 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $4.52 to $4.75 for overage. Out of town residential sewer rates will increase from $13.10 to $13.50 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $5.67 to $5.75 for overage.

In-town commercial sewer rates will rise from $16.10 to $16.25 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $4.67 to $4.75 for overage. Out of town commercial sewer rates will increase from $19.10 to $19.25 for the first 1,000 gallons, and from $5.67 to $5.75 for overage.

Tap fees for in-town and out of town water will remain at $500 for non-bore three-quarter-inch taps and $900 for out of town non-bore 1-inch taps. Bore taps come at cost plus 10 percent. Sewer taps will be provided at cost.