Thursday, August 25, 2005

Budget planning awaits TVA rate approval

Staff Writer

Planning for the City of Holly Springs fiscal year 2005-06 budget has been delayed while the mayor and board of aldermen wait for Tennessee Valley Authority to announce its approval of an electricity rate increase for Holly Springs Utility Department (HSUD).

So far city officials have considered department capital requests and projected operating expenses.

TVA was expected to meet with city officials Tuesday August 23.

HSUD’s accounting manager D. Miller explained that TVA is doing an internal financial study to see if the electric department’s request for a rate increase of its own is justified.

“They are going over our stuff with a fine-toothed comb,” Miller said. “They want to make sure you know exactly why we need a rate increase.”

“Basically, they are looking at your figures,” said mayor Andre’ DeBerry.

Miller said TVA sets a threshold on rate increases the electric utilities ask for themselves. If the request is over the threshold amount, TVA comes in and does a financial study at the utility.

“They need to see if your figures are needed,” DeBerry concluded.

Tom Boone, HSUD director, asked for permission to hire two new entry level employees now and a third one later.

George Humphreys said two employees had quit and he needed two replacements immediately to keep up with right-of-way trimming. With that the board voted unanimously to approve the hiring.

Don Hollingsworth reported for Public Works.

The Marshall County Board of Supervisors has advised that the Airport Authority has been turned back over to the original owners, after the Industrial Development Authority said it did not want to manage it any more, he said. The county said Holly Springs’ seat on the Airport Authority, formerly represented by alderman Russell Johnson, would be offered providing the city is willing to pay half the expenses. The county will pay all the expenses if the city does not want a seat.

Mayor DeBerry said he would like to see the dollar figure for the city’s share.

Hollingsworth passed along a resolution prepared by the attorney for the Marshall County Solid Waste Authority. He said Holly Springs and Byhalia would have to pass resolutions if they want to be included in the solid waste authority.

“They are trying to submit a plan and get money from Byhalia and the city to pay for the landfill,” Russell Johnson explained.

At the August 23 board meeting, the city board heard a presentation from Julian Allen, director of the Mississippi Automated System Project, about a new jail and records management system pilot project.

Afterward, the Town and Country Garden Club asked the city to sign off on an application for state grant monies to restore the old Presbyterian Church building beside City Hall. The city gave the club a long-term lease to make improvements of the historic building earlier this year.

Speaking for the club, Martha Thomas said a 20:80 match grant with the state Historic Preservation Commission would provide part of the money needed to pay for restoration work.

“We are applying for $50,000 and the club has $30,000,” she said.

The structure was just recently awarded a Mississippi Landmark designation which makes it eligible for grants, she said.

Thomas said the club would put up the 20 percent matching money and get to work on restoring the rear of the shotgun-style structure which has sustained severe termite damage. After that the club will work on the front of the structure and ADA accessibility ramps. The city would act as a conduit for the grant money from the state to the garden club which sees to making the repairs.

The board voted unanimously to allow the city to sign off on the grant.

In other business the board:

  • interviewed Greg Pettis, an applicant with the Holly Springs Police Department who is interested in the position of community resource officer and D.A.R.E. officer.

    The board approved the purchase of four taser guns at $840 each following a recommendation of chief Patricia Selman.

    She said three officers were seriously injured in dealing with a domestic aggravated assault arrest recently. She said the officers would have been justified in using lethal force but did not. Officers used pepper spray in an attempt to subdue the suspect, but it had no effect, Selman said.

    “A taser gun would have put him (the suspect) in control in seconds,” Selman said.

    Officers must be trained and certified to use the gun, she said. Rules of escalating threat apply to the use of taser the same as they do to an officer’s use of a lethal weapon, she said.

  • approved a contract with the Holly Springs School District to allow police officers to work security at city school athletic events when off duty.

    City officers would be paid for working school security by the school district and use city patrol cars and wear police uniforms.

    City attorney Ki Jones said state law allows cities to contract with school districts to use off-duty officers for security.

    Alderman Garrie Colhoun voiced concern about liability problems.

    Mayor DeBerry explained that police officers are sworn to provide for public safety whether on or off duty.

    Johnson noted that security guards do not get the same respect as police officers because guards do not have authority to make arrests.

    Selman added that on duty officers would not have to be dispatched to school events in case of trouble if off-duty officers were on the campus during events.

    The measure passed unanimously.

  • raised the mileage reimbursement for employees who travel out of town in their personal vehicles to 40.5 cents a mile.

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