No Property Tax Hike for Dresden; Water & Sewer Rates to Increase
BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (May 2) — On Monday, May 2, the Dresden Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading of the budget for FY 2022-2023, and discussed an increase in the water and sewer rates. Additionally, the board voted to provide the public with internet access to city board meetings; discussed plans for a municipal complex; received an update on tornado recovery efforts; and listened to the concerns voiced by local citizens.
FY 2022-2023 Budget
The good news for Dresden taxpayers is the city’s proposed budget for FY 2022-2023 retains the same property tax rate of $1.4837 per $100 of assessed value, which means there will be no increase in the property tax rate. However, due to a decrease in revenue in the water and sewer fund, rates are increasing to cover expenses, as required by law.
Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn also reported the budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 is a balanced budget.
A breakdown of the City of Dresden’s budget for FY 2022-2023 is as follows:
- General Fund: revenues = $2,228,940; total; expenditures = $$2,228,940
- Solid Waste Funds: Revenues = $334,860; expenditures = $333,652
- Water and Sewer Fund: = revenues = $1,042,848; expenditures = $1,204,643
- Drug Fund: revenues = $10,000; expenditures = $4,000
Director of Finance Carla Edwards stated the city’s indebtedness for installing high-speed internet amounts to $145,197.
Expenditures for proposed capital projects, if approved, would be financed by appropriations, as follows: street paving = $278,525; sidewalk repair = $15,000; and Christmas decorations = $10,000.
A proposed capital project to purchase a brush truck for the Dresden Fire Department, costing $52,000, would be financed by a loan.
The FY 2022-2023 budget was approved 5 to 1, with alderpersons – Gwin Anderson, Ralph Cobb, Lyndal Dilday, Sandra Klutts and Willie Parker voting “yes” and Alderman Kenneth Moore voting “no.” The ordinance must be presented to local citizens during a public hearing and approved on second reading, before going into effect.
Water And Sewer Fund
Because the law requires municipalities to charge rates necessary for their water and sewer funds to be self-sufficient, without dipping into property tax funds, Dresden’s water and sewer rates must be increased to cover the cost of state mandated and local capital projects paid for out of the water and sewer fund.
Inside the city limits of Dresden, the monthly base water rate for residential, churches and commercial structures will increase from $12.50 to $14. Additionally, the rate for water usage over 2,000 gallons is climbing from $2.10 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons of water usage.
The base rate for sewer service is increasing from a minimum of $18.75 to $21. Sewer rates are 150 percent of the water usage.
Customers outside the city limits will also experience an increase in the cost for water and sewer service. The non-resident base water rates are climbing from $28.45 to $29.45, and rural customers will be charged $3.82 per 1,000 gallon consumption over 2,000 gallons. The base sewer rate amounts to 150 percent of the non-residential water rate.
The base water rate charged for the housing authority (40 units) will be $14.00 per unit, with a $500 minimum. The charge for water usage over 80,000 gallons is 2.35 per 1,000 gallons.
Mayor Washburn explained, due to the destruction of homes and businesses in the December 10, 2021, tornado, there has been a decrease in water usage. This has resulted in loss of revenue, which necessitates an increase in the water and sewer rate to cover operating expenses and upkeep. However, the mayor noted, with the rebuilding of homes and businesses now under way, the city may be able to reduce the water and sewer rates as more customers resume services.
Public Audio/Video Access to City Meetings
In order to keep the community informed concerning actions taken by the Dresden City Board, and provide local citizens with updates regarding important city business, the board voted to authorize public video/audio access to city board meetings via the internet.
Alderman Kenneth Moore made a motion to provide the public with video/audio access to city board meetings, beginning at its next meeting, and for the recordings to remain on the city’s website for a minimum of two years. The measure was unanimously approved with all members present.
Due to a few members of the public misusing the City of Dresden’s Facebook page by posting “blatantly false statements, and sometimes hiding their identity by using fake names or by hacking someone else’s Facebook account,” according to the mayor, the board voted to suspend the city’s Facebook page for a period of 90 days.
Public announcements will be placed on the city’s webpage, www.cityofdresden.net, which will not allow public comments.
Local citizens wishing to address an issue may stop by Dresden City Hall, located at 589 Evergreen St. inside the McWherter Civic Center, or by calling 731-364-2270. Other departments may be reached by dialing the following phone numbers:
- Dresden Police Department – 364-2255
- Dresden Public Works – 364-3386
- Dresden Parks & Recreation – 364-3366
- Dresden Dog Pound – 364-3386
- Dresden Farmers Market – 364-2270
Municipal Complex Plans
The board discussed plans for building a municipal complex, which would incorporate a new fire department, city hall and police department underneath a single roof. The structure is to be built at the same downtown location previously occupied by these city offices, before being destroyed by the December 10, 2021, tornado.
Mayor Washburn stated it would be cheaper to construct a municipal complex instead of three separate projects.
With skyrocketing price increases for materials, the mayor stressed the need to develop plans for the municipal complex and to begin construction as soon as possible.
Alderman Anderson requested that board members and department heads be made aware of future meetings involving developing plans for the municipal complex, to ensure everyone is included in the planning process.
Mayor Washburn said the only thing the city has received, so far, is a standard generic floor plan, and a preliminary building design has not yet been developed.
Dresden Police Chief Chris Crocker stated he has discussed the building design of the municipal complex with City Recorder Jennifer Branscum, and was able to provide input, concerning the needs of the police department.
The mayor stated he has been in contact with landowners with properties located adjacent to the lot owned by the City of Dresden, which housed Dresden Fire Department, Dresden City Hall, and Dresden Police Department. Some of these property owners are deeding their land to the city, rather than keep the lots and incur the cost of debris cleanup and removal. Some are selling the city their property, while others are retaining ownership of their lots with plans to rebuild.
During discussion, it was mentioned that Tony E. Winstead, who owns the lot located on the corner of East Main and South Wilson streets (the site of the former Majestic House Restaurant), plans to build a law office for his daughter, Tiana, who is an attorney, specializing in international law.
According to Mayor Washburn, after locating property boundary lines, he discovered Winstead owns a small “dog leg” of land the city needs to procure, in order for the fire department to have drive-through doors for fire firefighting equipment.
Tornado Recovery Update
Mayor Washburn stated there has been no response to the city’s advertised request for proposals for a disaster debris monitoring service, which is required before FEMA will greenlight funding for debris removal.
Quality Contractor Services headquartered in Milan, which submitted a project proposal for hauling the debris to an approved landfill at a cost of $50 per ton, was recently awarded the contract.
The city is seeking to hire a monitoring contractor to monitor what the cleanup contractor picks up. The contractor is required to monitor debris cleanup and see what’s picked up at each location, make a note of it, and take photos to document the cleanup. This is to prevent FEMA being charged for work not accomplished.
FEMA must review the city’s contracts with the monitoring service and cleanup company, to ensure they meet their specifications. These requirements must be met, before FEMA will reimburse the city of Dresden for any of the cost of the cleanup. Once funding is approved, FEMA will pay 90 percent of the cleanup cost; the State of Tennessee will cover 5.0 percent; and the City of Dresden will be responsible for the remaining 5.0 percent.
If it costs $1 million to clean up the tornado damage, FEMA will pay $900,000 of it; the State of Tennessee will cover $50,000 of the cost; and it will be up to the City of Dresden to pay the remaining $50,000.
Disaster Relief Donations
Mayor Washburn stated funds donated for tornado recovery are earmarked for specific areas, including local citizens, local businesses and other designated recipients. The mayor commented he does not determine where those funds are allocated. He explained donations are channeled through local non-profit organizations and disbursed by these agencies.
As mentioned, during an April 21 community-wide meeting, United Methodist Committee on Relief is the only authorized firm the city has entered into an informal agreement with, to provide individual assistance to property owners and persons impacted by the tornado. UMCOR will be involved in long-term recovery, and serve as an advisor to Dresden’s Long-Term Recovery Group.
Mayor Washburn stated, contrary to information being spread around town, he is not a member of that group. “The county mayor and I sit as ex-officio members of that committee, but we have no vote,” mayor Washburn said. “We have no authority to make any decisions, in regard to who gets loans.”
Although UMCOR has not yet started taking applications, the long-term recovery plan includes free individual assistance, as far as homes and living arrangements are concerned. UMCOR may possibly rebuild some homes.
According to Mayor Washburn, those property owners who applied for a Small Business Administration loan, but were turned down, or were approved for a loan, but felt like they would not be able to repay the loan, have a good chance to receive assistance from the Long-Term Recovery Group. He noted SBA is a government lending agency, not a bank. If citizens affected by storm get turned down, there are alternatives available.
Branscum said, “You still need to apply to the Long-Term Recovery Group, even if you applied to FEMA and SBA before.”
The mayor stated the process for receiving long-term recovery assistance begins by applying for an insurance claim and Red Cross assistance, then, applying for FEMA assistance and being turned down (initially and upon appeal). Only after all of these steps have been taken, is the property owner eligible to receive assistance through UMCOR. One of the services provided by UMCOR is assisting property owners with appealing to FEMA.
Applications for long-term recovery assistance will not list the applicant’s name. Instead, they will be issued a number. The group that evaluates the applications will not have any personal information about the applicants. It’s going to be a blind decision-making process, regarding the applicant’s identity. They’re going to decide who gets grants, money and assistance, based solely on need.
Those who have sought disaster relief assistance and are not receiving funding, but still have needs that are not met, are advised to contact UMCOR and they will try to provide assistance of some kind.
Besides governmental funding provided for disaster relief, Dresden has received several private donations, including a $100,000 donation received from the City of Cookeville and Putnam County. All donations from individuals and groups totaled more than $700,000, according to Mayor Washburn. “These funds have been donated for long term recovery.”
The mayor stated, although the City of Dresden served as the conduit for a couple of donations, these funds were not given to the city. The money was donated to the Long-Term Recovery Group, which will disburse the funds to help the people of Dresden in need of assistance.
The money will be used to: help homeowners, who might not have had adequate insurance; provide renters with assistance getting established in a rental apartment; business owners; and people who may have immediate personal needs such as food or other things.
Additionally, Be the Village is still providing assistance. Their website is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bethevillagedresden/
For help with FEMA or any other agencies regarding disaster relief, visit the Tornado Recovery Center, located at: Weakley County Personal Development Center, 8250 Highway 22, Dresden, TN 38225.
Other donations, given specifically to assist the City of Dresden in its recovery, totaled less than $50,000. There is a separate allocations committee for these funds.
The mayor said the goal of the Long-Term Recovery Group “is to put people back into the position they were in before the tornado struck.”
Mayor Washburn stated there will be more assistance available through the Long-Term Recovery Group with less bureaucratic red tape.
For additional information regarding disaster relief assistance, see last week’s front-page article, “Tornado Victims Directed to Recovery Center” by Sabrina Bates.
Jackie Lamb addressed the board concerning delays in reopening his storage unit business on Highway 54. Lamb stated he has done everything asked of him by Dresden Building Inspector David Kelly, but has not yet been granted a certificate of occupancy. Lamb noted he added rebar and lag-bolts, and conformed to height requirements, as instructed. Additionally, he was required to test for soil compaction (even though no soil has been added). The local business owner said he provided Kelly with photographic evidence for anything he was not present to observe, such as pouring the concrete floor; but because the inspector wasn’t onsite to witness it, he allegedly informed Lamb he could make him tear up the floor if he wanted to.
Lamb stated the building contractor that constructed his storage units, informed him the storage buildings meet all specifications required by the city’s building code and offered to help the city retain another inspector to confirm this, if needed.
Lamb stressed he has invested a lot of money in constructing the storage units and the current situation is hurting his business. He said there is a great need for storage space in Dresden, especially following the tornado. “I have people wanting to rent space now,” Lamb said.
During discussion by the board, it was mentioned that other building contractors have stated they would not construct another building in Dresden, after dealing with the city’s present building inspector.
According to Mayor Washburn, the inspector works out of Memphis and only inspects Dresden buildings on Saturdays.
Lamb’s comments point to the need for buildings to be inspected in a timely manner to prevent construction delays. It was also implied that, had Kelly been available to inspect the storage units sooner, Lamb would not have felt the need to resort to photographic evidence, so the building contractor (who is based out-of-state) could proceed with construction.
When the board inquired if there was another building inspector closer to Dresden, the mayor stated certified inspectors are scarce.
City Attorney Beau Pemberton stated, since the building inspector is employed by the city, the board should exercise their authority to overrule him sparingly.
After hearing from Lamb, the board agreed to request the building contractor attend a called meeting next week (time and date not yet determined), to discuss the matter further before making a decision, and for the mayor to contact Kelly beforehand to see if the issue can be resolved before the meeting.
In other business, the board granted a request by Josie Woods of 310 North Cedar St., to adjust her water bill, since the leak from an underground pipe occurred partially under two overlapping pay periods, and she was only granted relief for a single pay period. Additionally, Woods explained that the plumber was notified on April 19, but could not repair the pipes any sooner, due to muddy conditions caused by the rainy weather, which hampered his ability to dig up the pipe.
Jasmine Williams, who resides on Woodside Circle, asked if there is a timeline for installing tornado sirens in the city. Mayor Washburn stated FEMA has not yet determined where an emergency siren should be located for optimum effect to alert the citizens of Dresden, in the event of a tornado or other natural disaster, and a timeline has not been set.
After hearing a request by Sandra Taylor for a dumpster to be replaced at Be The Village, the board approved the request by unanimous vote.
The time and date for next week’s called meeting of the Dresden Board has not yet been set.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is on Monday, June 6, beginning at 6 p.m.
With no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned.