Water rate increase proposed in Hogansville budget

Asia Ashley

June 17, 2014

Rate increases to water and sewer are proposed in Hogansville’s 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

In a review of the budget during Monday evening’s work session, City Manager James Woods said a $3 increase to the monthly base charges for both water and sewer are proposed in the budget. The increase in water is to “gain control over increased water costs of wholesale water,” Woods said.

The rate increase for sewer would start a three-year phased in increase to cover expenses of a new sewer plant.

“We knew we had to come up with at least a $5 base increase or that amount of revenue by the time the new plant opens up, so the passage of this $3 is to start an incremental increase so that over three years we’ll have that increase in place so people won’t see rate shock,” said Woods.

With the anticipation of accepting bids on the sewer plant in the fall, Woods said the plant could be complete in two years. He projects the same $3 rate increase in the following year’s budget, then a rate increase the next year to fill the gap of the revenue requirements.

Also proposed in the $10,759,888 budget is a 3 percent raise for city employees. An increase in salary for job adjustments was included for four employees.

Health insurance expenses contained a 10 percent increase in the budget, but employees should not expect to pay more for their plans.

Mayor Bill Stankiewicz referenced the city of LaGrange’s wellness program for city employees and how it helps reduce health care costs to the city. Councilwoman Jean Crockett inquired whether Hogansville employees whom are smokers have to pay an increased rate, in which Woods said that they don’t. The city of LaGrange required smokers to pay an increase rate towards their insurance plans.

Stankiewicz encouraged Woods to meet with LaGrange City Manager Tom Hall to discuss the setup of its wellness program.

After the work session, a public hearing was held for comments on the budget.

Resident Ray Jordan was the only to one comment and inquired about the budgeted $12,000 for grave opening and closing fees.

He suggested that instead of having two employees for the task, using inmate labor would be more profitable if they would use shovels and other non-expensive tools to dig graves. He suggested hiring one guard and using several inmates for the labor of maintaining and digging graves.

Though Woods agreed that the city should look into ways to keep the cost down, he rebutted by saying that there would be a liability risk in using inmate labor and hiring a guard would be about the same as the cost of the two employees. Having to use more inmates would slow down productivity in other areas where labor may be need, Woods noted.

Stankiewicz said the group would revisit the issue at a later date.

The second public hearing for the budget is scheduled for July 30 when the council will be expected to vote.

At the close of the public hearing, Brian Harr was sworn in as Hogansville’s police chief by Stankiewicz.