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Council targets catch basins

Council
Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The deteriorating condition of catch basins in the city of Huntington highlights the need for an annual capital improvement budget, Huntington City Council's Finance Committee chairman says.

"I just can't get over how prior councils and administrations allowed this to happen," Councilman Gary Bunn said during a work session last week. "It's absolutely sickening to have to drive around this city and look at these things."

Bunn's desire for a capital improvement budget has become louder as council members are tasked with approving funding to repair road slips or fix crumbling sewer lines, among other things, at almost every meeting. His latest remarks came after hearing from Assistant Public Works Director Jim Insco that approximately 500 catch basins across the city are in need of some form of repair.

Insco did not attach a price tag to the work, but an ordinance to pay an outside contractor $31,250 to repair 11 catch basins is on the agenda for the council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, at City Hall. Insco described the catch basins as the "worst of the worst."

Ironically, City Council approved a budget resolution sponsored by Williams, who was Council's Finance Committee chairman, one year ago Monday that authorized former Mayor Kim Wolfe's administration to spend $100,000 on catch basin repairs. Williams said he learned after becoming mayor that the work was never done and the funding was diverted elsewhere.

That's why Williams said he has proposed to have the work done by an outside contractor. It might cost a little less to let the Public Works Department make the repairs, but it could take up to a year or more because of staffing constraints, he said. The contract with Fields Excavating of Kitts Hill, Ohio, calls for the work to be completed in 60 days.

The failure to repair the catch basins even after funding was appropriated also stresses the importance of an annual capital improvement budget, Bunn said.

"It should be obvious to everyone in city government why we need one," he said. "It's a planning guide. You use it to set your priorities and hold yourself to funding them. It's also a requirement of the City Charter."

Williams said he will present a capital improvement budget to City Council in February along with his proposed 2014-2015 general fund budget.

"In one respect, you could say we've already taken steps toward that by committing $1 million for paving over the past five years," Williams said. "Because of that commitment, it's not the problem that it was years ago."

In other business Monday, the council will discuss the first reading of an ordinance making changes to the city's refuse collection policies. Under the new guidelines, residents will be allowed one free pickup of rubbish, yard waste or bulky items per month. The discarded items are limited to a half-ton truckload. Residents also will be required to show refuse fee receipts in addition to a West Virginia driver's license and license plate if they haul the items themselves to the Deitz Hollow trash drop-off facility in Guyandotte.

Commercial dumpsters also will be required to be emptied twice per week and list the owner's name on the side. The changes are designed to keep alleys cleaner and prevent landlords from abusing the city's free pickup policy for bulky items, Insco said. They also move the city a step closer to providing a year-round cleanup program in residential neighborhoods similar to the one this past spring, he said.

Here's a look at other items on the agenda:

COUNCIL MEETINGS: The council will discuss the first reading of an ordinance that moves the good and welfare portion of council meetings from the beginning to the end of the agenda and reduces the time that audience members can speak from five minutes to three.

Councilman Dave Ball, the ordinance's sponsor, said the proposal is an attempt to give the council chairman more control over meetings after recent good and welfare segments that have lasted for nearly an hour and contained hostile words toward council members and diatribes that have little to do with city affairs.

Moving the good and welfare segment to the end of the meeting complies with Robert's Rules of Order, Ball said. He also noted that council members can make a motion to give an audience member more time to speak if it's needed.

Council members Pete Gillespie, Sandra Clements and Rebeccah Thacker indicated they were opposed to reducing the time limit.

ROAD SLIP: The council will discuss the first reading of an ordinance that authorizes a $157,000 contract to furnish engineering services, labor and equipment to repair a land slide on Ridgewood Road.

RAIN GARDENS: The council will discuss the first reading of an ordinance authorizing a $61,787 contract to install rain gardens at the A.D. Lewis Community Center in Fairfield West and at Kellogg Elementary School in Westmoreland. The storm water control projects are part of an agreement between the city and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA fined the city $156,000 in 2011 but it was reduced to $15,000 after the city agreed to projects that are designed to alleviate storm water's impact on certain areas.

VIDEO CAMERAS: The council will discuss the first reading of an ordinance authorizing a three-year, lease-purchase agreement to install 24 video cameras in Huntington Police Department cruisers. Police Chief Skip Holbrook said the equipment, which also contains an audio component, enhances officer safety and is a safeguard against officers violating their authority.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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