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Falls council tables rates

NEWTON FALLS — A motion to give residents and businesses a one-time discount on electricity will remain tabled until February, but Village Manager David Lynch said officials are considering offering a permanent discount.

Village council on Thursday had the one-time discount on utilities, which has been tabled since December, delayed until the Feb. 1 meeting.

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak proposed last year that since residents in March and April when the coronavirus pandemic began, residents received a 30 percent discount on electricity and water, businesses also should be offered a discount. Baryak sought a one-time, 10 percent electric rate reduction for residents and businesses.

Council in December voted to table the matter until the second meeting in January after the financial books could be closed out for 2020 and finances reviewed for 2021 to see if the village could offer such a discount.

Lynch said the matter has been reviewed, and officials are looking to see if they can offer a more permanent utility discount to residents and businesses.

“I am in the process of completing a proposal that will be for a permanent discount, not a temporary discount. I will have this completed for council in four to six weeks. We want to provide a permanent discount, and I will present that at a future council meeting,” Lynch said.

Residential customers in March and April were offered a 30 percent discount on electric and water usage because of the COVID-19 pandemic and being forced to stay home by emergency directives from the state. Because of the lockdown, residents used more water and electricity, Lynch explained.

Baryak said a 30 percent discount will help businesses more now when they are reopened instead of when they were closed.

“I think we should show our businesses the same respect we have shown the residents,” Baryak said.

Sewer rates were not affected by the discount and remained the same in March and April.

Resident Tim Stinson, who called into the meeting, said there was a rate discount last year for the residents, but none for businesses. He said a utility discount of 30 percent would cost the village $45,630 for February and $43,245 for March.

Finance Director Anna Musson said a cost analysis would need to be done, noting with the discounts, revenue for the village was down.

Lynch previously said a discount on electricity for businesses would likely cost more than $100,000 per month. Council voted 4-1 with Baryak voting “no” to keep the motion tabled.

In other business, 3rd Ward Councilwoman Tesa Spletzer questioned why Lynch purchased a golf cart for $4,100.

“I was told it is a limousine-style type of golf cart. Under what ordinance was this purchase made?” she asked.

Lynch said the cart was purchased under the municipal budget as they purchase tires, police vehicles and office products in 2021 budget. He said it is not “a limousine style.”

“When we go to get these items, we don’t put an ordinance in front of council,” he said.

Police Chief Gene Fixler said he negotiated getting the golf cart from Trumbull County MetroParks for use by the village.

Officials said the purchase was included under a $6,000 purchase under police, but Fixler said the cart is for use by all village officials and he went to get it and used a credit card.

“My credit card had to be used because I was involved in picking it up. It did not come out of the police budget,” he said.

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