Increasing the town's franchise fees by 66 percent is projected to bring in an additional $1.2 million and bring Summerville's rate in line with surrounding municipalities, according to town Director of Finance Belinda Harper.
Town council called a special meeting Tuesday after Monday's budget workshop and gave first reading on an ordinance that would increase the fees paid by utility companies, like cable and electric companies, for use of town right-of-ways from 3 to 5 percent.
A public hearing and final reading is slated for the next regular meeting of council Sept. 12.
If the ordinance passes, the money raised by the increase will be used first for the Sheep Island Road interchange at Interstate 26's milemarker 197, and then for other road projects.
"One of the things we're looking at here is for future traffic relief in Summerville. As those of us know who live here and work here, there is pretty heavily congested traffic along our main arteries," Mayor Bill Collins said during the meeting. "With the new Sheep Island interchange having been funded, I think there's an opportunity for the town of Summerville to build a new gateway into town."
Councilman Walter Bailey amended the ordinance so it wouldn't just read "capital projects," but specifically road projects.
Five of the six attending council members voted for the first reading; Councilman Bob Jackson withheld his vote, adding he would wait until after the public hearing to decide. Councilman Aaron Brown was absent from the meeting, which gave only 24 hours notice.
Jackson called the fee increase a new tax.
"If we have this tax, it doesn't just impact citizens, it will largely impract our business community," Jackson said during the meeting. But he wasn't strictly opposed to the fee increase so long as the money wasn't only locked into the Sheep Island Road project. "I'd like to see the Oakbrook area get some of it."
"My amendment would allow for that," he said, adding that he just wouldn't want it to be vaguely assigned to capital projects and the money used for another parking garage — refering to the town's parking garage.
Unappeased, Jackson concluded that drawing extra revenue for roads requires a comprehensive plan for the revenue's use.
"One thing I'm missing with this council is a five- and a 10-year plan," Jackson said. "I'm not quite sure I have a longterm vision of where this council is going on improvements."
No motions were made on creating a comprehensive plan.