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Water rate hikes on the horizon

Belle Center Village Council sent residents a clear message during the Tuesday meeting: Prepare now for two water rate hikes within the next year.

As Mayor Rhonda Fulmer was prepared to wrap up a relatively short meeting, council members broached the subject of raising water rates to pay for a new $900,000 water tower and then took a symbolic action to announce their decision to proceed with two increases spaced six months apart.

The motion to raise residents’ water rates by $5 per month in April and by $5 again in October was forwarded by Councilman Dustin Plikerd and eventually approved by all five of the six council members present at the meeting.

“It gives people on a fixed income time to budget their money and know what is coming,” Councilman Plikerd said as he introduced the motion. “It’s going to prove to the (Environmental Protection Agency) we are making an effort.”

In recent months, the village council has heard from engineers and a consultant on public works finances that both recommended the village seriously consider replacing its 80-year-old water tower.

But Mayor Fulmer, a staunch opponent of raising utility rates, voiced her opposition to the measure, citing specifically that the village’s legal representative, Solicitor Steve Fansler, had to leave the meeting early to pick up his wife from the airport, one councilman who did not seek re-election will not be present for the final vote and Councilwoman Dee McIntosh was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I think this is really foolish you would push this through after you watched our solicitor walk out,” she said. “I think it was deliberate and premeditated.”

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