Thursday, February 23, 2012
Board OKs loan for meters
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen gave Don Hollingsworth, general manager of the utility department, permission to apply for a $1.3 million loan from Tennessee Valley Authority.
The money will be used to finish purchasing automated meter readers.
Holly Springs Utility Department has been changing out manually read meters to the modernized automated meters, but the completion of the installation will make it possible to read all meters in one day and bill on a 30-day cycle, Hollingsworth said. He said it would also help customers get the pricing for the month rather than the bill covering commodity prices for portions of two months.
The board unanimously approved the application for the loan, which will be spread over a five-year period at an interest rate of 1.9 percent, Hollingsworth said.
Next up, fire chief Ken Holbrook asked for permission to apply for a SAFER fire grant that would create two positions, a training officer and an inspector/investigator position. If the grant is received it will pay the salaries and benefits for the two posts for two years, he said.
The city’s fire rating stands at a 6 but Holbrook said the additional personnel may help the city obtain a 5 rating, which would lower insurance rates in the city’s fire district.
Alderman Russell Johnson asked how the fire department would maintain the positions after the second year.
“As you well know, you have to build that in at the third year (to the city’s budget),” he said.
Holbrook said the department added six firefighters a few years back and it turned out that the city found funds to keep the firefighter positions after the grant played out.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said if the SAFER grant helped get a better fire rating, it would have a positive effect on the city by reducing fire insurance premiums.
Johnson expressed concern that the two positions could add $100,000 on the budget after the grant expires.
DeBerry said the city could try to find a way to fund the positions after two years, hopefully through growth in tax revenues.
“The difference in the premium on an $80,000 home is considerable,” DeBerry said, under a reduced fire rating. “We are talking about making an investment. The chief is trying to be proactive and plan were funds are available.”
He said the fire department has to keep up with standards as they change.
“Our rating (a 6) could be taken back if we don’t keep up,” he said.
“Mayor, I look at the whole ball of wax,” he said. “The police department, the fire department, the street department. We have to look at the whole picture (when considering expenditures and creating new positions).”
“We are expanding at the police department and we are adding,” said the mayor. “We have to maintain or lose our ratings.”
Johnson mentioned the previous motion to borrow $1.3 million for automated meter readers, adding that the measure would save money on salaried positions.
At that juncture alderman Garrie Colhoun motioned and alderman Calvin James seconded to authorize the fire department to apply for a SAFER grant for two new positions. The motion passed 4-1, with Johnson voting nay.
Following that discussion, Andy McMillon with Holly Springs Main Street requested a harmonica convention be held on the square May 17. The event, produced in association with Foxfire Ranch, which holds the harmonica convention annually, would bring the spotlight on the city and would be produced like a Main Street Biker’s Night/Blues Night.
The board approved a motion to offer to hold an event May 17 on the north side of the square.
Next up was Dr. Charlotte Keys, of Columbia, who was successful in applying for environmental clean-up grants – the Brownfield grant. She requested a motion to apply for a Brownfield assessment in the city and county. Her fee would be $5,000 to apply for the grant and it could be split between city and county governments, she said.
Keys was instrumental in 2000 in obtaining a Brownfield grant to help clean up the environment after the explosion of the Reichold Chemical Company plant in Columbia.
The process would be to hold charrettes for three days after appointing a steering committee, she said. The purpose would be to draft up a list of sites abandoned or under used in the city or county that could be used in a grant application for a site assessment.
DeBerry suggested the board motion to ask for a Request for Qualifications “to keep the process sanitized.”
The board complied with a unanimous motion to advertise for an RFQ.
The next item was acceptance of a rental policy for the Eddie Lee Smith Multi-Purpose Building. The board passed a policy for prices for lease of the building, submitted by recreation director Ken McMullen, to take effect immediately but excepting anyone who had already been approved to use the building.
Next up was Leona Harris, who asked to use the multi-purpose building for an African American History Month festival on Friday, Feb. 24, and for the annual Ida B. Wells Arts and Crafts Festival and banquet July 13 and 14.
Harris said the art gallery is trying to hold all activities in one place this year.
Alderman Harvey Payne told Harris the board had just approved the new fee schedule for use of the building.
Harris said her non-profit could not afford any rent at all.
Payne then motioned to deny the non-profit, cost-free use of the building because the board had just taken action on the fee schedule for use of the building. Russell Johnson seconded it and the motion to deny passed 3-2, with aldermen Colhoun and James voting nay on the motion.
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