OAKLAND CITY — Oakland City Common Council has decided to stick to the status quo when it comes to the city's water meter deposit — at least for the time being.
The cost of the deposit came under discussion while the council discussed the possibility of creating an ordinance which would make a landlord responsible for their tenant's unpaid water bills. The council ultimately decided against that, but the possibility of raising the water deposit was brought up.
At that time, Mayor Hugh Wirth said despite not making landlords responsible for unpaid bills, something would need to be looked at to help recoup costs of unpaid water bills the city is left with after tenants move.
The current deposit is $200 and includes water and sewer, breaking down to $80 for water and $120 for sewer.
Wirth broached the subject of an increase Tuesday at the council meeting and asked council members to voice their opinion on the current rate and a possible change.
"Does the council feel that we need to raise that deposit or what, actually?" Wirth asked.
Councilmember A.J. Cooper, who had previously asked Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Willis to provide him with examples of delinquent bills, said the city has been losing money on water bills.
He went through a few examples of the amount due for residents who have moved and left unpaid bills. The amounts, after the $200 has been applied, range from over $300 to a little over $1.
"A $100 (increase) would catch the majority of them, that would make the deposit for new customers $300," he said. "I know Brenda's concern is we're losing money, but we have to be in consideration that we don't want to discourage anyone from coming in and taking residence in Oakland City."
Cooper said the city has already seen a population decrease and he doesn't believe a deposit increase would help that situation.
"I think we need to look at it and think on it hard," Cooper said. "If we're going to raise the rate, do we want to raise it another $100? Is it going to be a burden on bringing people into Oakland City? Do we want to make them decide to live elsewhere?"
Charlie Cochren originally mentioned the possibility of doubling the fee to bring a total deposit to $200.
"If raising it $100 would catch most of those that would be the better way to go because I don't know if it's going to put a burden on the landlords or not, but it would definitely put a burden on the renters to come up with that extra $100," he said. "But we've got to do something to cover those costs. We can't keep losing money on that."
The rates of deposits from some area cities were brought up, and most cited were lower than Oakland City. Willis said she could not guarantee it, but it's possible those numbers were only for the water deposit. The population also makes an impact on the lower number, for cities like Princeton and Evansville.
Cooper said he would be willing to look into some of the surrounding cities' practices to see how they create their rate and manage bills.
The council agreed at this time to keep the rate at $200 with no increase or decrease.
In other business:
• Charlotte Gray reported an increasing problem with people driving their golf carts on the walking trail that connects to Wirth Park. Gray said there are already signs in place. Mayor Wirth asked the police department to keep an extra eye on the trail.
• The Oakland City Police Department has hired a part-time police officer to be the full-time school resource officer at the East Gibson School Corporation. Police Chief Tim Gaines reported to the board of works on the hiring of Mike McGregor, who will be paid by the EGSC. The only time he will receive a check from Oakland City is if he is asked to work on a part-time basis for the police department, Gaines said. McGregor will be supplied a car from the OCPD, as well as a sidearm and uniform. The school corporation will provide benefits. McGregor is the town marshall in Cynthiana, and works dispatch for the Gibson County Sheriff's Office.