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The Aberdeen City Council approved a new set of fees and rates for various city services, despite one resident’s concern that the new schedule gives too much power to the city manager.

Karen Heavey, who could not be at Monday’s council meeting, said via a letter read by Mayor Mike Bennett that she is worried the ordinance allows the city manager to levy fees without oversight from the elected city officials.

“This power should be given only to elected officials,” Heavey wrote.

She also said she wanted to see more time allowed for public comment, saying parts of the ordinance were too vague and do not define requirements for the fees.

During the public hearing, Rev. Ben Cordle, of Bible Baptist Church, said he agreed with Heavey. Cordle gave the meeting’s opening prayer.

“[City Manager] Doug Miller has done a wonderful job for our city but I believe that power should go not just for him,” Cordle said.

Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck said she disagreed.

“I believe that she has made a statement that I’m not sure is quite true,” Landbeck said about Heavey’s claim that the city manager has sole authority to raise fees.

She jokingly blamed Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign commercials for confusing people into thinking taxes and fees are the same thing.

Landbeck said that unlike a tax, which is imposed by the government to meet needs, a fee is just a charge set for certain services to cover the cost of those services.

The ordinance does not say “levy” anywhere, she said, but allows a city manager to “establish” and “adjust” fees.

Landbeck said the council is still in charge of the fee schedule and over Miller’s choices.

“We are the overseers of him and what he does,” she said.

“How would we know what the cost of paper is? How would we know what the cost of [planning and community development director] Ms. [Phyllis] Grover’s time is?” she went on. “It’s his job to establish them. I really don’t think that we are doing anything we shouldn’t be doing here.”

The council unanimously approved the new schedule, but it also added quite a few amendments to the original ordinance.

The amendments include: charging $200 for restoration of water and sewer service in non-residential settings; charging an additional 4 cents per foot for building permits for fences longer than 250 linear feet; charging $40 for temporary signs; deleting charges for private fire hydrant testing; charging $200 for each successive stop-work order, after an initial charge of $100; charging $30 for returned checks.


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