Aberdeen introduces budget, keeps property tax rate stable

Aberdeen residents won't see a major change in their tax rates if City Manager Doug Miller's proposed $12.4 million budget for 2013 is approved, while the total amount the city spends could go down by 28 percent.

The city council introduced a budget Monday that would keep the annual real property tax rate at 68 cents per $100 of assessed value and the annual personal property tax rate at $1.70 per $100 of assessed value.

The water use rates would also stay at a minimum $14.50 for the first 3,500 gallons or less and $4.38 per each additional 1,000 gallons. The sewage use rate would be kept at a minimum charge of $17.02 for the first 3,500 gallons or less of metered water, and $4.85 per each additional 1,000 gallons.

"Because we lost so much in our assessable base, there is no need for a constant yield this year," Miller said.

Expected expenses from the general fund in 2013 total $12.4 million, a drop of $4.9 million from the amount appropriated in 2012.

Royal Farms

The council also approved the preliminary site plan for a Royal Farms gas station and car wash on Route 40. Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young was the only one to vote against it after listing concerns with the environmental impact and safety of the project.

Young questioned the LEED certification of the project and which gasoline additive would be considered most dangerous if let loose.

Tom Ruszin, environmental and fuel manager for Royal Farms, replied benzine would probably be the worst. He noted the additive that would replace MTBE, the chemical that leaked on Route 40 in 2004, at the station is not benzine but ethanol.

Young said she was also confused as to why Royal Farms was no longer planning triple-wall tanks. The company has said such tanks are not financially feasible and not needed from a safety standpoint.

Young, however, noted a previous location planned for Royal Farms was also a wellhead protection area and the company had planned triple-wall tanks at the time, and the planning and zoning commission was also under the impression the property would have such tanks.

Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck thanked Royal Farms and said its representatives were very diligent in answering questions.

"You certainly did do a very nice presentation and actually gave us all the information that we wanted and needed," Landbeck said.

Budget amendment, storm drains

Also during Monday's meeting:

- The council approved a budget amendment for a $63,000 county grant to renovate the swim club pool, a $2,260 federal grant for ballistic vests for police and two county grants for the capital fund of $33,830 for field-based reporting software and $21,000 for command vehicle equipment.

Resident Bob Hartman suggested making the pool more accessible to disabled individuals as long as it is already being renovated. Miller agreed that is a good idea. "Let's get it where it's accessible to all individuals in our community," Hartman said.

- The council awarded a contract for $44,962 to Grose Construction for separate storm drains on Plump Point Loop at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Grose Construction was the lowest bidder.

- The council introduced a forest conservation bill to comply with state requirements in defining forest and tree conservation terms.

- Public works director Matt Lapinsky said the Science and Math Academy will work with Aberdeen Proving Ground on environmental projects like tree inventories. He said the city is considering putting in grants for them but students will actually do conceptual designs for the projects. "They were pretty pleased to work with us," Lapinsky said of the proving ground. "I think it should be a great relationship."

-The Aberdeen High School Lady Eagles basketball team was recognized by the council for as state champions.

- Councilman Bruce Garner praised the Lady Eagles, saying: "These young women really, really were ambassadors for this city. They just handle themselves so well, on the court and off the court."

-Landbeck cited two columns in The Aegis discussing walkability and Smart Growth, and said they were "really dead-on."

"I think that is one of the things we are trying to envision and I think you'll see more of that," Landbeck said. "We have taken a state commitment to smart growth and we do try to be a very sustainable community."

She also said she was concerned about a survey she saw online showing only 42 percent of the Aberdeen High School faculty felt the community supported them. "If you see a teacher, talk to a teacher, tell them how much they are appreciated," she said.

Young extended her sympathies to the family of Zenobia Todd, a former city council candidate who Young said died recently.

-Mayor Mike Bennett said Aberdeen will be recognized as a Banner City for the third year in a row. He also said the multiple sclerosis walk will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Ripken Stadium.

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