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Water deposit raised to $100

From a water department deposit fee increase to several citypersonnel matters, Brookhaven aldermen handled a variety of issuesduring a lengthy but routine board meeting Tuesday.

In a water department matter, the board voted to increase thedeposit for new rental and business customers from $75 to $100. Theboard also voted to raise the department’s returned check fee from$20 to $25, but rejected a $10 service charge increase from $15 to$25 for unlocking a water meter after it had been locked fornon-payment.

Discussing the deposit fee increase, Mayor Bob Massengill saidthe city was charging off $6,700 in water bills so far this fiscalyear as uncollectable. With the increase, the mayor said the citycould have lowered that amount by about $2,000.

If water bills are paid up when a person moves, the deposit isreturned. Otherwise, the deposit is kept and applied toward anyunpaid water bill.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates suggested an across the boardincrease, which would also have applied to homeowners.

Other city officials, however, said that homeowners do not pay adeposit but only a $10 connection fee. Massengill cited otherutility providers’ deposit rates and those that do not requiredeposits from homeowners.

“Rental property is where you’re losing your money,” said CityAttorney Joe Fernald.

With the exception of the service charges, aldermen approved thefee increases. They will go into effect Aug. 15.

In city personnel matters, aldermen approved placing Jimmy Cooksin charge of day-to-day operations of the city solid wasterdepartment while Superintendent Willie W. Smith is away on militaryduty. Smith’s unit was recently activated for training at CampShelby before going to Iraq.

“We need to pray for him,” said Ward Six Alderman John E.”Buddy” Allen said of Smith.

Massengill said Cooks would work with Jimmy Furlow, who hasfilled in for Smith before, next week before being put in charge onhis own. The board also approved a pay increase for Cooks from$8.06 an hour to $10 an hour.

“He is going to be carrying a major load,” Massengill said.

In another personnel issue, Massengill said a ditch cleaningprogram using county jail inmates will be temporarily discontinuedat the end of the week until a supervisor can be found. An off-dutypolice officer is currently supervising the crew, but the mayorsaid that is triggering overtime that the city cannot afford.

City officials are looking for someone who can be deputized andwork 20-24 hours a week. The mayor praised early success of theditch program.

“It’s working well,” Massengill said. “It’s too good not tocontinue.”

Aldermen also went into executive session to discuss a firedepartment personnel issue. At about two hours, the closed-doorhearing lasted longer than the regular meeting.

Following the hearing, aldermen ruled that firefighter AndreSpiller did not follow a superior’s orders when told to returnbooks he had received during a fire inspection class paid for bythe city.

However, the board also ruled that Spiller’s suspension withoutpay for the insubordination was improper and ordered his payreinstated. Spiller was ordered to return the fire inspection booksby Aug. 1 or to pay for a new set of books for the city.

Spiller had no comment on the board action following themeeting.

The board vote on the matter was 4-1, with Alderman-at-large LesBumgarner voting against. Ward Five Tom Smith was not present atlast night’s meeting and Allen, who was feeling ill, left at thestart of the executive session.

“I was in favor of a different solution,” said Bumgarner abouthis vote, although he did not elaborate.

The board also met briefly in executive session with Fire ChiefPaul Cartwright, but no action was taken.

In other business during the regular meeting, Massengill saidWaste Management had approved giving the city a solid waste feecredit for city housing authority vacancies.

The city is charged $9.95 per household. The mayor said the cityis averaging about 55 vacancies during the first six months of theyear at housing authority complexes.

“They were very agreeable,” Massengill said of Waste Management.”We don’t want to short change them nor do we want to overpaythem.”

Aldermen approved Massengill negotiating with a landowner toclear about 1.5 acres of trees near the end of the airport’srunway. Officials said removing the trees would increase visibilityfor pilots approaching the runway.

The board delayed until next Tuesday action on a HomelandSecurity Operating Guide and equipment grant application. A specialmeeting will give aldermen a chance to review the document whichestablishes an incident management system in the event of aterrorism-related emergency.

“I’d hate to approve anything I hadn’t read,” Bumgarnersaid.