Holly Pond town council votes to surplus two properties, discusses sewer rate increase

Tyler McKeller delivers the annual Municipal Water Pollution Prevention Report to the council (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

HOLLY POND, Ala. – During their meeting Monday evening, members of the Holly Pond town council voted to surplus two properties that no longer had any municipal use. On the advice of the town attorney, the council accepted ordinances to sell 28 Brooklyn Rd. and 0.34 acres of land on Lick Creek Rd. as surplus, but the prices of the properties will be discussed in an executive session of a special meeting next week. The council also asked the attorney to draw up an ordinance to increase the sewer rates by 20%, which will be discussed and voted on before the first of July. 

The sewer rate increase was suggested by Tyler McKeller, the town’s wastewater representative from Living Waters. McKeller attended the meeting to discuss the annual Municipal Water Pollution Prevention Report, which grades municipal water systems based on how well they prevent water pollution. The grades fall on a scale from zero (perfect) to 783 (terrible), and Holly Pond received a grade of 50. Ten points were added due to system flow amounts exceeding design flow limits, as leaks have caused runoff during storms to infiltrate the system and add to the amount of flow, which accelerates system wear and tear. The remaining 40 points came from the age of the system; points are added based on each year of system age, with 40 being the maximum. Most systems are built for a life of 15-20 years, while Holly Pond’s is 35 years old.

Given the age of the system and the numerous repairs that come with it (including finding and repairing the leaks that cause excessive flow), McKeller raised the concern that the town’s current sewer rates will not allow the town to pay for repairs and upgrades they need. Holly Pond’s current rate has a minimum of roughly $12.50, and McKeller stated that towns of similar size with systems that require fewer repairs have minimum rates of $23-26. Mayor Carla Hart mentioned that the rates should have been gradually increasing over several years, but the fact that they haven’t means that the town does not have the money it needs to sustain the system without implementing massive price hikes on the residents. As an immediate solution, the council asked for an ordinance to increase the rates by 20% (bringing the minimum to roughly $15) to be drawn up. The changes will be posted around town once voted on to give the residents ample time to voice their concerns and prepare for the change to take effect.

In addition to the increased rates, McKeller proposed increasing the impact fee for commercial users. Currently there is no set impact fee, and there was concern that the new high-traffic businesses might add a lot of wastewater which the current system could not handle without upgrades. No action was taken on this.

Other business included approving $3500 to help the high school pay for a new outdoor building, set a budget of $3000 to contract services to clear small trees and brush at the ball park and rescinding a payment of $750 for a new culvert on Cemetery Rd. due to the discovery that the area is under county jurisdiction rather than town. 

Council member reports:

Gladys Wisner (Parks) – Everything is going well at the ball parks, and all three fields that night were in use.

Ricky Carr (Sewer) – Deferred to McKeller to give the report

Paul Brown (Safety) – No reports around town, but warned everyone to be weather alert on Tuesday.

Charles Holcomb (Streets & Lights) – All streetlights seem to be working, but they are keeping an eye on the one in front of the post office. Additionally, they will be getting in touch with someone from the State to try to get some responses on road repair projects that the town had applied for, but not heard an answer.

Julie Ray (Beautification) – Asked the council to consider purchasing hanging flower baskets to make and set up around the parks, and also announced that the flower beds at the senior center need some attention. Additionally, asked the council to consider building a small food pantry (“take what you need, leave what you can”) somewhere in the town for people to drive up to and use as they need without having to wait for a specific building to open.

Carla Hart (Mayor’s Comments) – All kitchen equipment left in the Carpenter’s Cabinet building was successfully donated and transported to the North Alabama Agriplex last week, and Pals Clean-Up Day on April 17 was a success.

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Heather Mann