It is official. Voters in the city of Portsmouth will have the opportunity to give an up or down vote on the renewal of the city’s flood defense levy.
Two meetings ago, city council defeated the ordinance to place the levy on the ballot by a 3-2 vote, with Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows and Sixth Ward Councilman Tom Lowe voting against the measure. First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson was absent at that meeting, and upon his return from vacation, reintroduced the measure.
At Monday night’s city council meeting, the ordinance was brought up for a first reading and Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson thought it should go on the fast track.
“I would move that we, since we’ve had this for discussion numerous times, that we waive the three-reading rule and go ahead and pass this tonight, so we can get the ball rolling on this and make sure it’s on the ballot,” Kevin E. Johnson said.
The vote was 5-0 (Meadows was absent). That means voters will have the opportunity to vote on the renewal after all.
Members of City Council have been discussing replacing the levy with a storm-water utility, which would place a fee on everyone in the city. That suggestion has drawn the opposition of City Manager Derek K. Allen, who says the fee would put an undue strain on area churches, the Portsmouth City School district and health care facilities.
Some outside suggestions have been that council look at Section 90 of the City Charter, which appears to give them power of assessment of fees. That section reads: “The council shall have power by ordinance to provide for the construction, reconstruction, repair and maintenance of all things in the nature of local improvements, and to provide for the payment of any part of the cost thereof by levying and collecting special assessments upon abutting, adjacent and contiguous or other specially benefited property. The amount assessed against the property specially benefited to pay for any such local improvement shall not exceed the amount of benefits accruing to such property.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.