MARTINSBURG — Village Council discussed the village of Martinsburg’s financial situation and the possibility of cuts in state funding when it met Monday.
“Things are tight in the village,” said Mayor J.R. St. Clair, “and have been for a while. We’ve made some cuts. We have volunteers doing the mowing, and that has helped. Things are tough, but they’re tough everywhere. How does council feel about an income tax levy in our village?”
Council members agreed that increased taxes would not be a good idea.
“I will oppose any new taxes because people have been taxed to death already,” said council member Joe Black.
Black raised the possibility of turning the management of village government over to the Clay Township Trustees, and there was discussion about means of cutting expenses and raising income, including an increased operating levy on the November ballot.
Council unanimously passed a resolution to raise water rates. According to Tammy Lahmon, director of the water board, the minimum usage of 2,000 gallons, billed at $15, will not increase. However, each 1,000 gallons over that minimum will be billed at $3.25, up from $2.25, and each 100 gallons over will be billed at 50 cents, up from 25 cents.
“We have to stay within reason of the surrounding village rates in order to apply for grant money,” said St. Clair. “I heard that directly from grant writers. We need a new backup well and we’ll need grant money to do that.”
Discussion continued on whether the community center, the firehouse and the Clay Township House should be billed for water usage. Council members Donna Johnson and Virginia Davis excused themselves from voting on the resolution, as they are members of the community center committee.
“I don’t think the fire department should be charged,” said George Hewitt, council member. “They’re all volunteers.”
Matilda Neighbarger, council member, noted that the community center is used rent-free by families holding funeral dinners.
The resolution failed by a vote of three “no” votes and one “no opinion” vote.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said council member Mary Jane White.
Village solicitor John Ryerson said that if a water leak should occur in one of the three locations, amounting to thousands of gallons, the Water Board should bring the bill to council and discuss how it could be paid.
St. Clair told council two pop machines have been installed at R&J’s Hot Spot and the firehouse to help raise money for the Parks and Recreation Department. A new corporation limit sign will be installed soon on St. Louisville Road, residents are to cut back their hedges upon request so as not to obstruct sidewalks, and council agreed to take no action on complaints made about the village’s fire siren by residents who questioned its necessity. Council was unanimous in its appreciation for the village’s volunteer firefighters and the need for the siren as a safety measure.
St. Clair and Ryerson told council they will be researching a possible overlap in taxation from the Licking Watershed Conservancy and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. There was also continued discussion of the cleanup of Sandy Jobes’ property next to town hall. St. Clair said he will check into the legality of operating quad-runners and all-terrain vehicles on village streets.
St. Clair told council the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has increased patrols by deputies recently, both in cars and on bicycles, and asked residents to thank the deputies when they saw them in the village.
Council also unanimously passed a resolution to continue an agreement with Park National Bank to continue to serve as depositor for public funds collected by the village, and another resolution — after suspending the required second and third readings — to name the previously unnamed two blocks of a street extending east from East Street, south of Liberty Street, as Davis Lane.