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Town council discusses fee hike proposal, emergency operations plan submission

By Staff | Dec 20, 2019

Shepherdstown Public Library President Rob Sisk discusses an upcoming community meeting for the library in the monthly town council meeting on Dec. 10. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The Dec. 10 town council meeting turned into a discussion session, after the suggestion of a raise in fees on residents within the Corporation of Shepherdstown was brought onto the table.

While the raise in fees suggested by Mayor Jim Auxer was only minimal, many of the other members of the town council voiced their concern over the idea, as the Corporation of Shepherdstown is neither losing money nor just breaking even.

“The only recommendation we have today is from the Planning Commission, the Project Classification and Fee Schedule Revision. I looked at this as an opportunity to show how wonderful Shepherdstown is,” Auxer said. “The Planning Commission spent some time in three or four meetings discussing these classification changes and fee revisions.”

According to Auxer, there would be no fee increases for property maintenance and removal of yard waste.

“The town council unanimously adopted the International Property Maintenance Code in 2016,” Auxer said about the code, which lists the town’s minimum standards for property maintenance. “This was prompted by the east and west ends of town. Sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to residents outside of historic Shepherdstown. I always preach about getting people from the east and west ends involved in town.

“For the previous two-to-three years, there has been no fee increase. We want to raise the fees a minimal amount, to show that the town believes in what the town is doing,” Auxer said, mentioning the town helps offset town fees for lower-income individuals and, through the Planning Commission, ensures that all repairs on historic buildings are done with historic materials to protect the homes’ property values.

However, the Planning Commission presented no data regarding why there was a need for more fee revenue.

“Until we’re shown financials that show we are losing money, unless someone shows me how we’re losing money, I don’t think we should increase that. It looks like we’re still increasing in money,” said council member David Rosen. “Anytime we’re looking at increasing taxes or fees on the people of Shepherdstown, we need proof that our expenditures are outweighing our intakes.”

After much discussion, Rosen made a motion that the fee increase discussion would be tabled until the Planning Commission could present financial evidence supporting the fee increase; until budgets have been developed for the Planning Commission and the Historic Landmarks Commission; and until the town has found a way to publicize how the extra fees will be used.

Other news that was approved, included the resignation of council member Mark Everhart as the town’s representative to the Shepherdstown Visitor Center. Council member Deb Tucker took his place and resigned as the town’s representative to the Planning Commission. Auxer agreed to submit a letter of “no objection” to the ABC, on behalf of the Shepherdstown Public Library, which is planning to host a Community Library Party about its new building on February 15, from 6-9 p.m. The Jefferson County Emergency Operations Plan Resolution was once again approved this year and sent to the Jefferson County Commission, to be combined with the other emergency operations plans submitted by all of the other municipalities in Jefferson County. Shepherdstown’s resolution included the additions of a generator for the water plant, and an emergency intake, which will draw water from Town Run.