Huntington Common Council wastes little time approving bond sale, new district lines

In just 10 short minutes early Tuesday morning, Nov. 27, the Huntington Common Council approved the sale of nearly $9.5 million in bonds, an action likely to trigger sewage rate increases for city residents, and put into place new boundary lines for council districts.

Both items had been introduced during the council's Nov. 13 meeting and passed without discussion, but not without dissent, during the most recent meeting.

Up to $9.46 million in bonds will be sold to finance a portion of the city's ongoing project to upgrade its sewage handling system to meet state mandates.

Proceeds from the sale of these bonds will finance the separation of stormwater and sewage lines in the Frederick Street area and several related projects, all with a goal of keeping raw sewage from bypassing the treatment plant and being dumped into area streams.
The bonds carry a 20-year repayment schedule, with payments of $500,000 a year.

The additional income to make those payments will come from a proposed sewage rate increase that could be as high as 14 percent. A public hearing on the proposed rate hike will be held during the council's Dec. 11 meeting.

The bond sale was approved on a 4-3 vote, with council members Wayne Powell, Greg Davis and Jim Long casting the votes in opposition.

Long cast the sole "no" vote on the new council districts, which were approved 6-1.

The districts from which council members are elected must be adjusted every 10 years to reflect population numbers as reported in the most recent census. Changes were made in boundaries for each of the local council districts in order to keep the population of each district roughly equal.

Long previously argued that the changes in his district, situated on Huntington's east side, would split up homogeneous neighborhoods.

The new districts will be seen on the ballot for the first time in 2014.

Additional appropriations were approved, on a 5-2 vote, to pay for city employees' health insurance and to pay expenses in the solid waste department.

Long, who was joined by Davis in voting against the additional appropriation, questioned the $665,000 shortfall in the amount budgeted for health insurance.
Clerk-Treasurer Christi Scher explained that the city is self-insured and the additional money is needed to pay for claims that were higher than expected.

The council unanimously approved the vacation of an undeveloped portion of Washington Street, located between Condit and Iowa streets.