By Shari Harris, Publisher
The City of Licking Water Project was reviewed at the June 13 meeting of the Licking Board of Aldermen. City Utilities Superintendent Rodney Sullins and Engineer Terris Cates, of Integrity Engineering, updated the Board on the project, associated costs and how they would be paid, and anticipated timelines.
The plans had increased in scale since the original decision to undertake the project, as had the costs of material and labor to complete the work, mounting to a $10 million price tag. Sullins, Cates and Asst. Supt. Donnie Trout reviewed the plans prior to the meetings and were able to trim back the plans to the original project, reducing the cost to $7,491,000.
A new, elevated tower equal in height to the tower near the prison is still included in the plans, with a new well house. The tower at the school will be dismantled. In the water distribution system, old mains will be replaced, with 6-inch pipe. The old fire plugs with 4-inch pipe and fittings will be replaced with 6-inch pipe and fittings. Meters will be placed at the parks and other places to monitor the City’s water use.
A $5 million ARPA grant and $280,000 in matching funds by the City (also ARPA money) will fund the first part of the project. The second portion will be funded by a combined $2.6 million grant and loan by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A DNR grant of $1.6 million has been requested, along with a $0.99 million DNR loan.
During the original vote on the project, Licking citizens approved the City to sell general obligation bonds of $2.35 million and revenue bonds of $1.45 million, and the wording allowed the funds to be used for either a water and/or sewer project. DNR will purchase $0.99 million in revenue bonds, constituting the “loan” component of the funding for the second portion of the water project. The City will repay the loan over 20 years. Revenue bonds are paid off with revenue the City collects from user fees.
A revenue bond capacity of about $0.46 million and general obligation bond capacity of $2.35 million will remain, totaling $2.8 million, which may be used for the sewer project. General obligation bonds, if used, would be paid back by property taxes at the end of each year.
Requests for bids are anticipated possibly as soon as September for the water project.
The Board of Aldermen voted to enact two new ordinances. Ordinance 654 prohibits disposal of garbage, trash, or solid waste in alleys, streets, roadways, vacant lots, or other properties within the city, or in any stream or body of water in the city. Construction or demolition waste may not be disposed of by burning on the premises or in the immediate vicinity, unless burned in an approved incinerator.
Ordinance 655 prohibits reckless burning or exploding, including recklessly starting a fire or causing an explosion, damaging or destroying the property of another, or starting a fire under unsafe conditions.
In other business, former Fire Chief Jimmy Sherrill received a plaque recognizing his “loyal and faithful commitment to the Licking Fire Department.”
Tiffani Allen introduced Angie Warner, the incoming administrator for Hickory Manor. Allen will be advancing to another position with the company. Census for May at Hickory Manor averaged 38, with current census at 33. Repairs by the City have occurred, including to the water softener and ice machine.
TCMH CEO Stace Holland updated the Board on the new clinic status, with the current structure being readied for buildup. The surgery center at the main TCMH campus is ahead of schedule.
Mayor Keith Cantrell suggested adding the Juneteenth holiday to the list recognized by the City. The Board voted to add the holiday, with 13 of the State’s 16 official holidays observed. The change was effective immediately. Discussion of vacation and a salary increase for elected officials was tabled until next month.
Department Head Reports:
LPD Chief Pat Burton – The Explorers that were ordered last year have finally arrived. One was involved in a fender bender (not the officer’s fault) and will be repaired. New officer Tristin Hall is working on his own now.
Utilities Supt. Rodney Sullins – All employees have been working hard. New employees are doing well. Work has been done at the nursing home recently. A quote has been received from Harold G. Butzer, Inc., for quarterly maintenance on city-owned equipment at the nursing home, City Hall, and Fox Community Room and Firehouse. Ice machines, water heaters, coffee machines, HVAC systems would be included. The Board voted to approve the quote, anticipating overall savings due to decreased repair/replacement bills for equipment.
City Administrator/Clerk Rhonda Kirkwood – The annual rate of Worker’s Compensation insurance was discussed, with a 9 percent increase from 2021 to 2022, and a 15 percent increase from 2022 to 2023. An excess of property loss claims including wind/hail damage, loss of a substation, and increased worker’s comp claims for PTSD by first responders have been reported by MIRMA as causing the rate increases.
Fire Chief Aaron Greathouse – The Fire Department assisted with parking cars at the rodeo, but was called away for a fire on Saturday evening. The red truck behind City Hall has been sold and will be picked up soon. An open invitation was extended to the City Council to stop in at the Fire Station if they see the firefighters there. The Rural Fire Department Board is doing a raffle to raise funds for equipment.
The Board voted to enter closed session.