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Hoschton committee examines pay, pumps, police
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HOSCHTON — City well repairs, wastewater stimulus funding, employee health insurance and the police department’s future were among issues discussed at three recent Hoschton committee meetings.

At its May 13 meeting, the Water, Waste and Environmental Services Committee opted to upgrade the pump serving the White Street Well. Councilman Richard Green, chairman of the committee, announced at the city’s May 4 meeting that the well’s 15-horsepower pump needed to be replaced. This pump, said Green, had likely been in the well since the early 1980s.

The committee chose to upgrade the pump with a 30-horsepower one. The change will allow the well to pump 198,000 gallons a day, compared to the 100,000 gallons the 15 hp pump pulled. The entire project cost will be $21,129, said Green.

The committee believes the change will be beneficial to Hoschton, especially if its request for a groundwater withdrawal increase receives approval from the Atlanta Environmental Protection Division.

Hoschton can now withdraw up to 100,000 gallons a day, but wants to be able to pull 250,000 gallons. Upgrading the pump, said Councilman Tom Walden, will help the city plan for the future, even if the city’s withdrawal request is denied.

“If we don’t get the increase we’re looking for now, there’s nothing keeping us from going back again and asking for an increase when we start development here,” he said. “I’d like to have something down there that looks to the future.”

If Hoschton receives the increase, it will be able to pull 198,000 gallons from the White Street Well and up to 48,000 gallons from the West Jackson Park Well, once construction is completed.

Repairs on the White Street Well are expected to finish by next week.

The committee also discussed grant opportunities provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The city received approval for two projects involving the wastewater supervisory control and data acquisition computer system (SCADA) and infiltration and inflow in Hoschton.

SCADA allows the pump stations to be operated from remote locations, according to Green.

Infiltration and inflow involves “foreign water entering your sewer system,” which ends up being treated with the other sewer, costing the city money, said Green. The city asked for $265,000 in stimulus funding, which would help identify the infiltration and inflow, but not fix it.

For this reason, the committee decided to recommend pursuing just the SCADA project. The city initially requested $250,000 for the project, but Green said that will likely be reduced to $100,000. The money will help repair the wastewater SCADA, which Green said is “unresponsive” at times. Project funding is 60 percent loan and 40 percent forgiveness, with the city paying a 3 percent interest rate over the next 20 years.

Fiscal Resources Committee
At its May 12 meeting, the Fiscal Resources Committee decided to recommend to the city council that Hoschton forego the current $525 monthly stipend that employees receive for health insurance.

Instead, Tom Walden, committee chairman, said the committee will recommend that a certain monetary amount be added to employees’ hourly pay in place of the stipend so the city can “get out of the insurance business.”

Under the current stipend, the city pays about $6,300 annually for health insurance for each of its 11 employees.

Councilman Jim Jester suggested giving employees $265 a month for insurance purposes, which would be distributed by adding $1.65 to employees’ hourly pay. Jester said doing this would save the city about $31,000 a year.

“I know this isn’t the time to talk about pay raises, but this isn’t a pay raise,” said Jester. “They’ve (employees) been getting it (the stipend) the whole time they’ve been here. Right or wrong, whether the city administered it properly, it’s become an accepted standard that that $6,300 is part of their salary.”

Walden said instead of $265, he would like to see employees paid $325, which would merit an hourly increase of $1.87 and save the city $24,000.

Public Safety Committee
During its May 12 meeting, the public safety committee held a public session and then went into a 65-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues and the future direction of the police department.

Councilman Richard Shepherd, committee chairman, said during the session, members “formulated a plan moving forward concerning personnel for the Hoschton Police Department.”

The committee will make a motion concerning the police chief position at the council’s June 1 meeting, he said. Former Police Chief David Hill’s resignation, who left to join the Jefferson Police Department, was effective May 15. Capt. Jeremy Howell is currently serving as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found.

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