The Mesquite City Council will consider a decrease in right-of-way (ROW) fees at its June 26 meeting that could eventually return thousands of dollars to Mesquite citizens' pocketbooks.
The proposed ordinance that requires utility companies like electrical, phone, cable TV, and natural gas (not available in Mesquite) to pay a three percent ROW fee to the City would reduce that fee by one-half percent each year until it's dissolved completely in six years. Utility companies like Overton Power have passed on the fee to their customers resulting in citizens ultimately paying the surcharge.
When the fee was first imposed in 2005, Overton Power District refused to include the fee in its customer's bills. Rather, it billed them separately to highlight the amount of money it was required to collect and pass to the City. When customers complained about being billed separately for small amounts, the electric company relented and included the fee in regular monthly bills, listing it as a separate charge.
The City Ordinance says that "utilities, services, companies or entities shall pay the city a fee in a sum of three percent (3%) of their gross sales annually, paid quarterly, as a fee for use of city rights of way within the city. Any company subject to a franchise agreement and fee via statute, ordinance, agreement or otherwise, will not be required to pay the city more than five percent (5%) of their gross sales annually, including this three percent (3%) right of way fee."
As utility charges have increased over the years, so too has the ROW fee. The City currently collects approximately $500,000 per year that is deposited into the General Fund. "Right of Way fees are used, as required by ordinance, for general street maintenance and larger capital projects related to streets," says the background material for the agenda item.
The Street Maintenance Fund, into which the fees are deposited, has a projected balance of $3.5 million dollars at the end of the current fiscal year, June 30. The proposed FY 2012-13 budget shows an ending balance of $2.388 million on June 30, 2013. If approved, the fee decrease will take affect July 1, 2013.
Bill Tanner, Director of Public Works, said that if the fee is eliminated, "we'll have to take that money from somewhere else to continue maintenance of the roadways."
Councilman Kraig Hafen has opposed the fee since its inception saying, "it's just another way to tax the citizens of Mesquite. By incrementally decreasing the fee we can get rid of it altogether without impacting the budget too much. We're not talking about a $500,000 hit [to the budget] the first year. It will be about $80,000 per year."
Because of Mayor Mark Wier's employment with Reliance Connects, a local cable TV, telephone, and Internet provider, he announced at the Council's Technical Review meeting on June 19, that he
will abstain from any action associated with the agenda item.
The Council will also consider the sale of a city-owned 2003 Ford Mustang GT directly to Police Officer Justin Goodsell for a set amount of $4,590. The transaction is unusual because most vehicles are sold at auction. Mesquite Police Department Chief Troy Tanner explained to the Council at its June 19 Technical Review meeting that the vehicle is especially equipped and decorated for children's safety campaigns like D.A.R.E. and Beat the Heat. City Attorney Cheryl Hunt determined that direct participation by Goodsell in the Beat the Heat drag races could have a significant liability impact on the City. If Goodsell purchases the car and operates it as a private individual, it will negate any liability for the City.
Most of the special equipment included with the vehicle was donated to the MPD by private organizations or individuals. No City-owned or provided equipment will be included in the sale.
"We don't pay him to attend any of these special events," Tanner told the Council. "He donates all of his time for these events. We want to sell the vehicle to him at the current Blue Book price rather than donate it to him or sell it at auction."
Under the Consent Agenda, the councilors will consider approving a settlement agreement with Lincoln County and C & O Holdings regarding the City's November, 2010 annexation of land located just across the Lincoln County line. "In December of 2010, Lincoln County commenced civil litigation contesting the annexation of the C&O Holdings property into the City of Mesquite," says the background material. "C&O Holdings has recently proposed settlement of this matter by way of detachment of its property from the City of Mesquite. All parties will pay their own attorney's fees and costs incurred to date."
The City Council will consider an amendment to the Mesquite Municipal Code that will revise downward the amount of money that can be approved for projects using Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds without a special review by the RDA Board. Previously, projects below $99,999 could be approved by City Staff and the Mayor. The RDA Board revised that ceiling to $50,000 per project. The agenda item formalizes the change and allows amendments to the City Municipal Code. See MCJ article RDA Board Keeps Grant Application Process, Lowers Ceiling Cap
Additional items on the City Council agenda include:
--A review of the Consulting Service Agreement with Robcyn, LLC, including its General Service Agreement ($3,000 per month) and Fish & Wildlife Service Agreement ($4,500 per month).
--Mesquite Campus Lease Agreements for the 2012-13 Fiscal Year. See MCJ article Mesquite Council Authorizes Partial Fee Increase, Hears Econ Dev Plan-Video
--Approving a contract with the Hardy Consulting Group for 2012-13 Fiscal Year;
--Appointing Debbie Cardenas, Finance Director, as the City Treasurer;
--Renewing the City's insurance policy with the Nevada Public Agency Pool.