Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rate hikes likely; rehab center denied

Staff Writer

Tom Boone, director of Holly Springs Utility Department, advised the board of aldermen last week that Tennessee Valley Authority is reviewing the utility for a possible electricity rate hike.

“The TVA board and staff are undertaking an annual rate review as of June 13 and I expect a 7.5 percent rate increase,” Boone said. “TVA is shooting to keep the increase under 10 percent.”

Boone said HSUD will likely ask TVA for a 2 percent rate increase for the local distributor which would raise about $350,000 annually. If TVA allows the city to tack on an increase the money will all be plowed back in to cover maintenance, equipment and other operating costs instead of a salary and benefit increase for utility workers, he said.

“We definitely need raises and benefits,” Boone said. Other electricity distributors’ employees are paid about par with those in the city and are not getting raises either, he said.

“Other distributors are in about the same boat we are in,” he said.

TVA rates vary according to their costs, he said. TVA has not raised electricity rates to the city of Holly Springs in about nine years, Boone said.

The board of aldermen will be asked to approve water and sewer rates also, Boone said.

The utility expects to ask for a 24.44 percent increase in water rates and a 52 percent hike in sewer rates in the next few weeks. Boone said new rates, if approved, would go into effect in about a month. Water and sewer rates in the city are running a little below rates in other locales nearby, he said.

Boone added to another boardroom discussion about the fire insurance rating in the city and said a close relationship between the city’s fire and utility departments, and other departments and good operating water pressures have helped Holly Springs with its rating.

The board discussed a permit request from Virgil Scherff, pastor of the Victoria Assembly of God church, for the conversion of Holly Springs’ old nursing home on Highway 4 to use as a long-term alcohol and drug rehabilitation center for women.

Scherff has asked for rezoning of the property for commercial use since it is located in a residential district and several property owners have objected to an A&D center in that location.

Mayor Andre’ DeBerry asked the board for a motion on the rezoning request after calling it a “difficult issue.”

Alderman Naylond Hayes proffered a motion to allow the rezoning and alderman Russell Johnson seconded.

The motion was defeated 3-2.

Aldermen heard a request from Greg Gresham for a variance to locate a billboard advertising KFC on his property along Highway 78 just east of Exit 30. He argued that Wal-Mart has a sign on Highway 78 that, he said, acts as a billboard.

The board discussed revising the ordinance containing a moratorium on billboards and tabled the issue for executive session.

Afterward the board voted 5-0 in favor of lifting the moratorium on billboards along the I-22 corridor with stipulations that billboards must be set 1,000 feet apart on properties that are properly zoned for such purposes.

In fire department matters, chief Ken Holbrook asked the board for authorization to apply for a SAFER grant to help pay for adding six new firefighter positions.

He said the federal grant assists municipalities in staffing so that four firefighters leave the station on the first truck after a call.

The five-year grant provides a decreasing federal match each year with the locality paying 100 percent of the new firefighters’ salaries the fifth year for an additional year after the grant expires.

Holbrook said the grant is structured so that over the five year grant period federal dollars would pay for half the costs of adding six new firefighters. If awarded, the grant would take effect in October.

In other business, the board of aldermen:

  • approved a preliminary plan for a new eight-unit extension to the Ralph Doxey Subdivision.
  • discussed codes for electric conduits in the downtown area. Current ordinances require electric wire to be carried in conduits but some apartments over commercial spaces do not have conduit.

    “When you have a mixed occupancy, you need to go to the highest level,” Holbrook said.

    Board attorney Ki Jones said he will draft an ordinance to address the conduit issue.

  • heard a request for a plotter for drawings from Don Hollingsworth.
  • approved a request from the Town and Country Garden Club for a resolution that will help the organization apply for landmark designation for the Yellow Fever House (First Presbyterian Church building). The board voted unanimously for the resolution.
  • authorized the mayor to get quotes for an exit audit of the City Clerk’s records at the request of Mayor DeBerry. He said the audit would help ease the transition as the city moves from an elected city clerk position into an administrative clerk’s post.

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