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Buckley council bumps rate for natural gas

By Casey Steiner

The Courier-Herald

Rest assured, the city of Buckley stands fiscally strong heading into 2005.

"The city is in fairly good shape financially," City Administrator David Schmidt said. "The diligence that everyone has exercised over the last few years has paid off and now when other communities are struggling Buckley continues to move forward."

During the Nov. 23 City Council meeting, the final 2005 budget for the city was adopted and the 2004 budget was amended. Amongst other topics on the agenda were changes to the business and occupation tax, a utility rate increase, final acceptance of the contaminated soil stockpile project and change of orders for the skate park.

The 2004 budget was amended due to unforeseen monies and expenses. The city received an unexpected donation to the Buckley Aid Car fund and incurred natural gas expenses greater than anticipated amounts. The city also corrected the cemetery fund by adding revenues and expenses to be in compliance with state law and not have any funds go over budget.

In order to make the tax more consistent, fair and equitable, the Administrative, Personnel and Finance Subcommittee recommended that the model business and occupation tax ordinance exempt threshold be lowered from $100,000 annual gross revenue to $20,000.

"The business and occupation tax has long been a controversial issue between government and business in the state," Schmidt said. "The current model has been in place since 2000. To be fair, it was thought that if any have to pay, all should have to pay. When it all boils down we're talking $2 per $1,000. Three or four business owners opposed it."

A 5-1 vote approved a new ordinance proposal at the meeting.

"If the ordinance passes, the entire tax will be repealed," he said.

The city is not sufficiently covering the cost of its natural gas supply system and an increase from $.74 per therm to $.81 per therm was approved Nov. 23. The city purchases its supply at wholesale from IGI Brokerage Services at $.449 per therm. Once the $.12 per therm for transportation and $.20 per therm for operation are added in, the break even rate is $.77 per therm. The extra revenue will help make capital improvements and maintain a sufficient reserve in lieu of an uncertain supply market.

A 5 percent increase in sewer charges was also approved "to help pay for sewer upgrades," Schmidt said.

The contaminated soil project was accepted as complete, with retainage to be released immediately to the contractor once the necessary steps have been taken to make the action lawful.

It is estimated an addition of about $27,000 will be needed to complete the multi-use skate park project.

"We don't like having change orders on a project, but sometimes it is necessary," Schmidt said.

The first part of the change order is for the removal and replacement of unstable soil. It is necessary, according to Schmidt, to dig out the subgrade to a depth of 12 inches to remove the "mucky clay soil" and replace it with pit-run backfill. Normally this process is included in the initial bid, but in the confusion of a recent transfer of duties, the engineers missed it. The total cost of the dig and replacement is $7,825.

Due to a misunderstanding of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "suggestion," new truncated domes must be added to all sidewalk approaches to the skate park. What was thought to be only a suggestion was found out to be a full requirement. The truncated domes are significantly more expensive than the grate pattern the engineer had been instructed to go with and will cost an additional $1,400.

The second change of order to the skate park project is to construct a parking lot which can be shared with the new Youth Center. The Youth center is said to be placed directly to the south of the skate park and the lot could be placed in-between. The change order is to construct half of the parking area and gravel the other half to allow for proper vehicle circulation.

It is believed the current skate park contractor has given reasonable rates. If it were chosen to wait on the parking project, Schmidt said, it would require designing a separate project and getting new bids which may not be as good. The necessary money to complete the project is $18,068.

Casey Steiner can be reached at csteiner@courierherald.com.

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