Thursday, July 20, 2006
City narrowing choices for key positions
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs board of alderman and mayor are set to meet to discuss the hiring of a new police chief and general manager at the utility department.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry and the board agreed, at his suggestion, to a meeting to hone in on the final decisions of whom to offer jobs. He said a special meeting with the entire board present would help review all concerns rather than working through it piecemeal.
The Holly Springs Utility Department has been without a general manager since April this year and the police department has been operating with an interim chief of police for about two years.
The board and mayor took up several issues of importance at the July 5 meeting.
HSUD’s software system, due for an upgrade by January 2007, will require training of several employees in order to implement the upgrade, according to office manager Dee Miller.
The software handles HSUD’s automatic meter reading system and some features in the new software are needed to handle the addition of a new substation in Mt. Pleasant, she said.
“Meter readers are dependent on it,” Miller said.
Aldermen voiced concern at the cost of training, which included a two-day stay and travel to Minnesota or to Austin, Texas, and a training fee of $750 per person.
Miller said the entire software system was expensive, but HSUD needs to retain the software, which cannot be upgraded until individuals are trained.
“We will be able to cut off and cut on customers from inside the building,” she said. “And it will make operations at all our substations easier when we make the software change. We will be able to remotely read water and gas meters with the new software.”
HSUD has 11,000 electrical customers with 3,000 of these customers being on the automatic meter reading system. The automatic reader system transmits electricity usage to the substations daily and the data are then transmitted via telephone line to the utility department.
Don Hollingsworth with HSUD added that the software program has a clock on it where a customer could be shown when their meters were not operating and when they were running. The program helps HSUD in resolving customers’ questions, he said.
“Eventually customers will be able to read their daily electricity usage on the Internet if they have the automatic reader,” Miller said in an interview Monday. “We will not have to have somebody out in a truck to read those meters anymore because of the features the upgrade in our software will provide. We have had that meter reading system up about seven years.”
Mayor DeBerry said three years ago departments were advised to take any requests for software to Information Technology first for a review of what is needed to make a software system work before it is purchased by the city. He argued that sales representatives often sell a new software without disclosing all the hidden costs of extras that are needed to make a system run.
Miller provided a financial report to the board and said bad debt has increased by about $35,000 at the utility since last year.
That brings the total delinquent charge off at HSUD to $100,322 for 2006, according to the report. Bad debt last year was $65,276.
Following this discussion the mayor said he was vetoing a motion made at the previous meeting to hire a consultant to handle $2.6 million in bonds for the construction of a new electricity substation at Mt. Pleasant, based on alledged improper procedure on a motion brought forth by Alderman Nancy Hutchens. He said the minutes showed Alderman Tim Liddy, who was conducting the meeting while Deberry stepped out of the boardroom, as having seconded the motion.
He said the motion needed correcting.
“I need to veto this action and we can come back and revisit it,” he said.
“If it’s not a valid motion, why would you have to veto it?” Hutchens asked, after saying that it was Alderman Naylond Hayes who seconded the motion to hire consultant Demery Grubbs.
“Because the motion is out of order,” DeBerry said. “I really need a motion to sustain the veto.”
“A motion to sustain the veto, or to override it?” asked Liddy. “Can we make a motion to correct the minutes?”
“The best way to solve this situation is to remove this from the minutes and then we can come back. If you don’t take action, the veto stays,” DeBerry said.
“If you vetoed, it’s vetoed, so now if we want to change it, I make my motion again to hire Demery F. Grubbs to handle a $2.6 million electric substation bond (sale).”
DeBerry asked for discussion and for Liddy to take the chair so he could make a point. Liddy agreed to chair.
DeBerry argued that the matter was taken up hastily without a history in hand of the consultant’s professional, financial and leadership capabilities.
“I don’t think we would do this when we are talking about $2.6 million and he is capable of making 2 percent on this contract,” he said. “There ought to be something in my hand showing this person is capable.”
Hutchens said, “We’ve known and been involved with him for years at (Municipal Association) meetings.”
DeBerry argued that to hire Grubbs without a thorough checking of his company’s history was “not consistent with what we’ve tried to do in the past (with other consultants).”
He said he had no objection to Grubbs doing the work, that he just wanted to make a point.
“And I will amend my motion to tell him to have something in writing,” said Hutchens. “He handles 80 percent of the work for the state of Mississippi.”
Hutchens’ motion passed four ayes with Alderman Russell Johnson abstaining - citing his absence at the meeting when the motion to hire Grubbs was made.
Board attorney Ki Jones said he understands Grubbs would not be paid anything unless the bonds were successfully issued.
Hollingsworth then asked for a resolution to hire Watkins, Ludlum and Stennis to act as bond attorney.
“I can assure you, all we want is to get a substation at Mt. Pleasant,” he said.
Hutchens made the motion to hire Watkins, Ludlum and Stennis and the motion passed unanimously.
The board then took action on a request by DeBerry for a letter to the Mississippi Development Authority requesting to sell bonds for $500,000 for a grant to restore Hill Crest Cemetery and for $90,000 for restoring Chalmers Institute.
Liddy made the motion and it passed unanimously.
Finally the board passed a motion for a proclamation to be spread on the minutes regarding the service of the late Rev. Pegues to the City of Holly Springs.
Liddy then queried the mayor and board regarding the city leadership’s stand on the proposed landfill site in the Marshall County Solid Waste Management Plan.
“I think the public should be aware of where we stand,” he said. “I think the citizens ought to know that’s not something we’re in favor of.”
The mayor suggested the position of the board of aldermen be discussed off the record.
Alderman Garrie Colhoun is a member of the Marshall County Solid Waste Management Authority representing the City of Holly Springs.
A public hearing on the solid waste plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 31 in the Marshall County Courthouse.
(Correction: There was an error in a story that ran several weeks ago about extension of Holly Springs Utility Department services in the Mt. Pleasant area. HSUD is not planning to place sewer service lines in the Mt. Pleasant area.)
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