Thursday, December 3, 2009
Board hashes utility issues
By SUE WATSON
While the city of Holly Springs awaits the hiring of a new general manager for the utility department, the mayor and board are grappling with getting the department ready for the new manager.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said he wants an energy audit of the utilities (electricity, gas, water and sewer) to see if there is loss of product that is costing the utility, and ultimately the city, before the new manager comes in.
“I want the audit before we bring in a new manager so the manager will know the state of the profit margin,” he said in the November 17 meeting.
DeBerry expressed interest in providing a clean slate or point of beginning, administratively, for the next manager. He asked the board to back out of a letter of engagement signed by the accounting manager for a professional audit, saying the city should take responsibility for more of the actions at the utility - actions that have previously been taken by HSUD employees. The board approved a motion to see if the city clerk can back the city out of the contract.
DeBerry explained that the utility department is part of the city and the manager could be binding in contracts without going before the board of aldermen for approval and getting a signature of the mayor.
Alderman Calvin James asked why the utility department was operated separately, without receiving a satisfactory answer.
Later in the meeting the situation was discussed further after interim utility department manager Don Hollingsworth said there would be a 3.8 percent reduction in fuel costs by the Tennessee Valley Authority that would translate to about $3.89 savings monthly on the average customer bill effective December 1.
In reviewing HSUD’s project list, aldermen and the mayor discussed several items.
A contract for right-of-way clearing would be left up to the new manager and no immediate action is needed on hiring after-hours dispatchers as suggested by the former manager, John Collins, the mayor said.
“There are some things you ought to leave to the new man or woman,” he said. “These are not critical right now at this time of year.”
Alderman Johnnie Bagley questioned several items on the HSUD report – large numbers of small items purchased from the hardware store and safety meetings initiated by Collins, but carried forward by Hollingsworth. Particularly, she wanted to know if the HSUD linemen were dressing in proper uniform attire.
Alderman Harvey Payne asked if there had been a number of hard hats vs. soft hats complaints.
Hollingsworth said, in a meeting of department heads a week ago, he understood the workers were going to get standard clothing and wear hardhats for protection on job sites, in the warehouse and on the yard.
“The group consensus was to wear hard hats all the time like other utilities and private industry. You would keep your shirt tail in and would wear hard steel-toed boots. They will be required to wear uniforms when they are bought,” he said. “Also, some utility workers will have to go to a face shield.”
The reinforcement of the work uniform was implemented by foremen and superintendents, he said.
“We are trying to make them look like linemen and utility crews,” Hollingsworth said.
In an interview after the meeting, Bagley said, as a new board member, she wants to be knowledgeable about the responsibilities and leadership role that aldermen can assume.
“We are a new board and we are only getting what they tell us,” she said. “We want to see a clear picture.”
In other business, the board of aldermen:
• set a public hearing to get public comment on a set of new flood plain ordinances for December 15 at 5:30 p.m.
• opened bids on laying concrete drains at West Street and Rolfing Road. Low bidder was Encorp of Arlington, Tenn., at $13,976.91. High bid was J.M. Duncan, Inc. at $34,000.
• introduced six applicants for police officer and three applicants for dispatcher for positions at the police department. Accepted the resignation of officer Raymond Owens.
• discussed providing an officer for security at city hall.
• considered a three-year contract with Telepac at $2,500 a month for broadband (high data rate Internet access) service. Currently DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) transmission service is provided in Holly Springs by AT&T. Information technology director Ken Robinson, who recommended the agreement with Telepac, said the company offers broadband speed almost 15 times faster than what the city gets from AT&T for $2,100 a month.
• approved a motion to advertise for the mill and overlay of College Avenue from W. Boundary to Memphis. Hollingsworth said residents along College as well as businesses have agreed to moving mailboxes and signs that may encroach on College Avenue according to federal guidelines that will take precedent when federal dollars are accepted for the work.
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