By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – The electric department could receive almost $15,000 in additional revenue in 2009 under the terms of a new agreement with MetroCast, the city’s cable TV provider.
The agreement was announced at the regular “first Tuesday” meeting of the Board of Alderman Nov. 4 at City Hall.
Board Attorney David Burns told Aldermen, “We’ve been negotiating with MetroCast which is the successor to Vista III Media on the fees that the electric department receives for their cable attachments on the city’s poles.”
“Since 1966 we’ve been operating at a $2.50 per attachment rate. Through 2007 and a couple of years before that was working out to be about $3,055 a year based upon 1,222 attachments.”
Burns explained that a new pole count revealed there were actually 1,470 attachments that made for a modest increase of $3675. However, he added, the rate – which goes back to that 1966 agreement – is still out of whack with what other municipalities have been getting.
Through a series of lengthy negotiations involving Greg Fender of Local Government Services, MetroCast has agreed to raise the rates effective Jan. 1, 2009. “What they have agreed to do is raise the rate for $2.50 per attachment to $12.50 per attachment,” Burns said.
“Based on the current pole count would mean for 2009 pole attachment fees of $18,375, if my math is right. That is almost a $15,000 increase,” he added.
The agreement also includes increases of $1 per year for the attachments beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2013. The board voted unanimously to give Burns the authority to finalize the deal.
In other actions:
• The board approved a “red flag” policy designed to protect information received through the utility departments. The policy outlines procedures that the city will use to help prevent identity theft.
• Aldermen voted to accept a bid of $1500 from Larry and Betty Hart for three-tenths of an acre of abandoned property located in the area of Panola and McFarland Streets.
• The board approved making color corrections on the city zoning map that showed several areas of privately owned land as public. Planning Commission Chairman Billy Humphreys, who also serves as Zoning and Floodplain Administrator/ Build-ing Inspector for the city, brought the issue before the aldermen.
Humphreys also brought a draft of a new building permit application form that would set fees based on structure’s square footage. The board agreed to take the new form under advisement.
• Aldermen voted to pay Attorney David Burns $1578.90.
• The board approved advertising for bids for the city depository and for culverts.
• Aldermen agreed to renew a contract with the Water Valley Housing Authority for police protection.
• Board members approved payment of $3494 from Willis Engineering and $53,024 from Columbus Fencing for work under the airport grant.
• Aldermen accepted a bid of $5,375.40 for playground equipment from Miracle Recreation Equipment of Pearl. The only other bid was for $8,151.57 from J.A. Dawson Company of Pelham, Ala.
The equipment is part of the Baker Street Park project being financed with a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority.
Alderman Sherry Martin asked how long the project was going to take. Mayor Norris said that the MDA allowed three years and added, “The way it’s going, by next summer it will probably be built.
“OK, good,” said Martin in whose ward the park is located.
Also approved was payment of $4,632.30 to Willis Engineering for their work on the park project.
Alderman Fred White asked, while on the subject of grants, how the bridges were coming along. Mayor Norris explained that the bridge replacement on Lafayette Street was nearing completion.
“Then we’ve got Eckford, Boyd, and Martin Street. Not in any particular order,” the Mayor added.
Street Department Manager Mike Scroggins joined the discussion and said that Eckford Street would be next since some of the street was being lost at that location.
Alderman White suggested that the Martin Street bridge should receive attention soon since it had been “on the front burner” longer that the others.
Scoggins explained that a lot of utility infrastructure would have to be rerouted for the Martin bridge project.
“We need to get that done,” White said. “There’s no need to wait until we run out of money. That’s something you don’t know these days and times.”
• Aldermen accepted the recommendation of Police Chief Mike King that the city purchase a Chevrolet Impala with a 3.9 litre flex fuel V8 engine. The vehicle, which will be used as a police vehicle, is available for state contract price.
• Auditorium rental rates slowed down the fast moving pace of the meeting as Aldermen weighed the expense of operating the Civic Auditorium. Currently groups are allowed use the auditorium for rehearsals that culminate in a public performance for one payment of $150.
Mayor Norris presented figures to the board that showed the auditorium was used 22 times last year with a total income of $3125. The expense to the city was $4293 not including pay for the city workers who clean up.
“It is costing us some money to rent it for $150,” the Mayor added. “We do need a policy.” The city never has had a written policy regarding the use and rental of the auditorium.
The issue was raised because the school system had requested use of the auditorium for three days of practice and two public performances of a holiday play, “Christmas in the Land of Oz.”
Alderman White said that he didn’t believe the city should charge the school system a large amount while Alderman Martin said that she didn’t believe the city should lose money.
“I’d rather lose a few dollars than overcharge the school system,” White said.
After some additional discussion, Aldermen agreed to come up with a policy to be implemented for 2009.
“That gives us some time to work this thing out,” said Alderman Charlie Harris.
• Board members voted 3-2 to purchase an excavator for the cemeteries and parks department. Aldermen Harris and Tommy Swearengen voted against the motion.
Harris stated during the discussion that grave digging at the cemeteries should be contracted and Swearengen agreed. Both cited incidents of damage.
Mayor Norris countered that there were more incidents of damage when the work was contracted that when done by city workers.
• Aldermen approved training for Water Department Manager Morris Surrette and for Zoning and Floodplain Administrator/Building Inspector Billy Humphreys. The two different sessions are both held in Tunica.
“We don’t have to furnish them slot money, do we?” questioned Alderman Swearengen.
• The board agreed with a recommendation from Gov. Haley Barbour to allow state and local government employees an extra holiday on the Friday following Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
• Although the board had completed all the items on the agenda, Alderman White again brought up a problem with sewage that had backed up into a home on Suggs Street. He had first discussed the damage claim at the October meeting at which time the aldermen had agreed to let the water department manager look into the issue.
Attorney Burns said that he would contact the city’s insurance company to see why the company denied the claim.
• After an hour and 11 minutes of regular session, the board entered executive session.
After 19 minutes the board returned to regular session and voted to promote Jan Aarup from the fire department to 911 dispatcher. They also voted to advertise for a full-time fireman to replace Aarup.
Aldermen next voted to hire Jason Russell and Jimmy Dwayne Willis for the water and sewer department.
The Mayor announced that on Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. asphalt bids for Baker Street Park would be opened. The meeting ended after one hour and 26 minutes.