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Town council okays town email list compilation, water tax rate increase

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Nov 13, 2020

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The Shepherdstown Town Council convened over Zoom for their November meeting on Tuesday evening.

During the meeting, a number of motions were approved, including a water tax rate increase and the compilation of a town resident and worker email list.

“There are a lot of things we’ll know in advance that we can get out [through email]. Like, [when] we know a street will be blocked, Thursday or Friday afternoon, that people would like to know about,” said councilman Marty Amerikaner. “The whole purpose is to improve communication with the residents. This is simple, inexpensive, and pretty easy to administer.”

A motion to approve the email list proposal was unanimously approved. Once the list is compiled, it will be used by Town Clerk Amy Boyd to send out essential information in the future.

The town council also unanimously approved a recommendation by the Water and Sanitary Board to increase the town water tax rate by five percent. The first public reading of the recommendation will be conducted in the town council’s next monthly meeting in December.

“The water board has been working for two years, to do updates to the water treatment plant. The updates would include providing a secondary source to Town Run. That will entail a station that will pump water out of Town Run, in the event that something happened on the Potomac and our water would have to be shut down,” said town engineer Jeff Ekstrom, mentioning such an event happened a few years ago, during which the town made do by using temporary pumps from Town Run. “In addition to that, we’d like to do some updates to the sludge removal system. This will really improve the operations of the waste water plant.”

According to Ekstrom, the cost of these projects will exceed $900,000. The amount of the tax rate increase needed to cover this cost was determined by accountant David Decker.

The town council also approved the appraisal of the town’s tobacco warehouse, which was estimated to cost no more than $2,500. According to Mayor Jim Auxer, the appraisal is necessary to sell the tobacco warehouse to a potential buyer.

“For the first time in years, people have shown interest in purchasing the tobacco warehouse. They have the wherewithal to do this,” Auxer said, mentioning the tobacco warehouse has only cost the town money over the years it has been in the town’s possession. “At the moment, it’s . . . costing us on maintenance, insurance and flood insurance.”

After the appraisal has been completed, the town council will have to pass a motion to sell the property. If passed, the property will be sold in a public auction, as public buildings are required to be sold.

The final item approved by the town council was to proceed with an offer by First Energy to give a free appraisal on replacing the town’s streetlights with LED lights. The appraisal idea was recommended to the town council by the Public Works Committee, according to Auxer. After the appraisal is finished, town councilman Chris Stroech suggested moving forward with it cautiously, to which the other town council members agreed.

“We could have them install one light, and that would give us an example of what would transpire,” Auxer said, suggesting the replacement be in a darker place in town, such as behind the Shepherdstown Public Library.

Public Works Director Frank Welch reported during the meeting on the success of the town’s annual clean-up week, which was held last week.

“I don’t have tonnage figures, because it’s so hard to figure that out, since we picked up metal, brush and so forth. I do know this is one of the busiest week’s we’ve had so far,” Welch said, mentioning Public Works’s medium duty truck made five trips to the landfill. “I think, during COVID, people stayed home and cleaned up stuff in there houses! It was quite successful, I must say.”