It will be another two weeks before the Albany City Council makes the decision whether to impose a new city services fee after the ordinance creating the fee stalled Wednesday night.
Under the city charter, it takes a unanimous council to run an ordinance through the required two readings of the title at the same meeting. Three council members, Matilda Novak, Dick Olsen and Stacey Bartholomew, objected to the second reading Wednesday. This automatically postponed final action until the next regular meeting on June 23.
Olsen said he favored the fee ordinance but wanted the delay to give people more time to discuss it. Novak opposes the fee. Bartholomew had a question about low-income assistance, which the city manager later cleared up.
The fee would be $9 a month per household, less for apartments and more for commercial utility accounts, and would be added to the water bills. It is intended to raise more than $5 million during the 2021-23 budget period, which starts July 1. The added income would allow the city administration to restore several personnel and service cuts in the two-year budget, including the loss of nine jobs in the fire service.
Councilor Marilyn Smith suggested the council might enact the fee this month but set the rate at zero for the next two years. She didn’t explain what that might accomplish other than letting the budgeted service cuts take effect.
Councilman Ray Kopczynski said he wants the fee enacted the way it has been proposed. He’ll be on vacation later this month but said he’ll try to attend the June 23 meeting virtually.
Also gone that day will be Councilwoman Bessie Johnson, another supporter of the fee, and she too will try to attend electronically.
For most of the past year, all council sessions have been held on the Internet. Starting in July, the council will meet in person at City Hall. The seating has been rearranged to put distance between members. As before, meetings also will continue to be available online.
The June 23 session, though, may be the last one where council members see and hear each other only on their computer screens. (hh)