The Cherokee City Council Tuesday night approved a Public Hearing on restructuring a $710,000 General Obligation Refunding Capital Loan Note, passed the second of three required presentations increasing the City's cable TV franchise fee, and approved the purchase of a new Police Department vehicle.
The Council also unanimously approved a motion to send a zoning variance regarding a proposed front-yard deck extension back to the Board of Adjustment for further review. The BOA recently approved the variance. Related to this, the Council also asked City Administrator Don Eikmeier to set up a future "workshop" meeting between the BOA and Council to discuss the trend of variances being granted by the BOA that ignore or circumvent City zoning regulations and may cause future problems with too many variance precedents being set by the BOA.
According to statute, the Council cannot change the vote of the BOA, only ask it to reconsider. If the BOA chooses to grant the variance a second time, the only recourse the City would have is to legally challenge the BOA decision in Court.
The move to refinance the debt schedule of the existing 2002 $710,000 G.O Bond is an effort to defer the largest principal and interest payments and reduce the tax rate for Fiscal Year 2010-2011. Restructuring the G.O. Bond issue will result in a net savings of approximately $7,500, and reduce the tax impact for debt service by approximately 80-cents per $1,000 valuation for the next two years.
A Public Hearing on the issue will be held at the Council meeting Tuesday, April 28, and a decision rendered on the refinancing of the G.O. Bond.
The approval of the second reading of the cable TV franchise fee includes hiking the fee from its current and longtime 1-percent of gross revenue to 5-percent of gross revenue. For City cable subscribers, this would increase the existing 50-cents monthly fee to $2 per month. Those monies go to the City's maintenance and regulation of the City rights-of-way that accommodate the cable system.
On a 4-1 vote with Council member Mick Mallory voting "no," the Council also authorized awarding a bid to Holzhauer Motors of Cherokee for the purchase of a replacement vehicle for the City Police Department in the amount of $18,960, including trade and bid assistance for a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe 4x4.
Police Chief Steve Schuck and Eikmeier recommended the Holzhauer bid over one from Rasmussen Ford for a 2009 Ford Explorer XLT bid at $18,287 with trade, even though the Tahoe was $673 higher. In explaining, Eikmeier told the Council that the Tahoe had a V-8 flex-fuel engine, compared to the V-6 regular engine in the Explorer, and that the Tahoe had 20-percent larger front-seat workspace.
The bid is $4,000 higher than previously budgeted for. Schuck originally asked for $17,000 but that was pared down to $15,000 by the Council in the final budget tally. Eikmeier told the Council that he and Schuck will manage the Department's budget to stay within the projected totals by Fiscal Year end. Because of the extras mentioned, the Tahoe's trade-in value would also be greater in the City's current 3-year replacement program, according to Schuck and Eikmeier.
In other action, the Council approved a $10,373 bid for electrical work to Woodall Electric of Cherokee for the Waste Water Treatment Plant's ultra-violet light project mandated by the Department of Natural Resources, and approved Karen Peterson as a new member of the Planning & Zoning Commission.
In regards to Cherokee County's current efforts to build a new $3 million jail that would exclude the City Police Department now sharing space in the existing Law Enforcement Center, Eikmeier told the Council that he and Schuck would continue meeting to solidify their thoughts and recommendations, and then meet individually with Council members to gather their thoughts on the matter.
The proposed County plan hinges on Cherokee County voters passing a bond issue August 4, 2009, in excess of $3 million, that would fund the County's project of an estimated $2.7 million construction cost, plus several hundred thousand dollars for soft costs and related equipment.
The Board of Supervisors has offered the existing LEC to the City for $1 lease per year and are on record as saying they would remodel that facility to suit the City Police needs, with the exception of certain space to be reserved for storage for the County.
Eikmeier also advised the Council that the City has been fielding complaints on citizen satisfaction with cable TV supplier Mediacom. He will arrange a meeting with representatives of the company in the next few weeks and is seeking written or verbal comments from the Council on subscribers' experiences with Mediacom.
Many subscribers have reported frequent poor reception, picture tiling, and channels totally off the air for extended periods in both good and bad weather. Then, they say, after lengthy delays of jumping through the telephone hoops to reach an actual person to report the outages, they are put off with alibis, and many even solicited to subscribe to other services offered by Mediacom.