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G'town considers sale of Broadband


December 24, 2008
The Georgetown Town Council last Tuesday night discussed year-end budget reports, the possible sale of the town's Broadband system and a wage freeze ordinance.

Clerk-treasurer Doug Cook presented the council with a comprehensive fund report for both December and the entire year. While the town's balance was $180,000 below what it was at the beginning of the year, Cook explained this was because the money from property taxes for 2007 had not been received due to restructuring at the state level.

In addition, the town has yet to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency checks, totaling $30,000, for damages during the windstorm in September, he said. Cook also reminded the council that it paid off the $200,000 Broadband loan at the beginning of the year.

If everything stays on schedule from this point and the town receives its tax monies and settlements on time, the town will be $350,000 in the black by June, Cook said.

Cook then called attention to the town's Broadband account. It began the year with $60,476, but now has a balance of just $5,989. The town only has 60 customers on the service, not enough to cover the cost of operation and maintenance, making the system unsustainable, he explained. The Broadband account already owes the water account $75,000, he added.

"It won't last 60 days as is," Cook said of the Broadband system.

President Billy Stewart later in the meeting announced the town was proposing to sell its Broadband equipment and service to Helix Technologies because of the system's financial situation. Stewart said Helix is offering to operate the system for six months, and if it is satisfied, then buy it.

Town Attorney D.A. Andrews, however, recommended once contracts with customers are fulfilled, the town basically scrap the entire system, explaining that going through the paperwork of selling it would be a "money loser." The Broadband equipment is valued at $65,000.

Stewart proposed a committee, and the council voted 5-0, to start researching the sale of the system. The committee will include Georgetown Public Works Director Jim Reynolds and councilmen Mike Mills and Aaron Striegel.

In another issue, Stewart read the following statement on behalf of the council addressing a bit of internal strife caused by earlier consideration of a wage freeze ordinance due to financial concerns:

"We (the council) are tabling the wage freeze ordinance until we have more information to properly consider this issue. We did not establish a dialogue with the clerk-treasurer's office prior to considering this ordinance, and this has resulted in people feeling like they have been singled out for harsh treatment. We apologize for how this was handled and the hurt and disappointment some have felt.

"Georgetown is under tremendous fiscal pressure due to continuing struggles with its sewers. We also face uncertainty as to whether we will have the financial resources to live up to the budgets previously set for 2009. Due to the current economic crisis, budget problems are a common situation with governments, businesses and households across America.

"We will continue to monitor the fiscal situation very closely in the coming months. The elected officials and the employees will have to work together to save money when it is not available. If employees are called to make sacrifices, they must get the credit for this and the town council will not make future proposals concerning wages without consulting affected employees first. We apologize for not doing this, especially to Kim (Sweet) and Doug (Cook), who both play important roles in the success of Georgetown."

At the previous meeting, it was made known that Cook and his first chief deputy, Sweet, were proposing legal action against the town if it proceeded with plans to freeze the salaries of everyone working at the town hall.

In other business, the council:

•Approved, 5-0, a settlement with Haas Oil, which owed the town $30,000 in damages for the cleanup of water lines. The company is to pay the town $10,000 up front and then $880.44 a month for 24 months.

•Listened as Stewart announced the council was forming a New Albany Sewer Board Negotiating Committee consisting of himself, Councilman Everett Pullen and Andrews that will meet with the NASB to discuss contract terms and penalties regarding the sewer contract. This was proposed at the last NASB meeting, which was attended by Georgetown representatives.

At that meeting, Georgetown was granted a two-month extension on contractual penalties that were due to take effect on Feb. 1. The penalties include an increased sewer rate for Georgetown by as much as 54 percent if the town is still on New Albany's system and a $450,000 fine if construction of a sewer plant hasn't begun. The new deadline is April 1.

•Received a recap from Public Works Director Jim Reynolds regarding the east lift station situation he discussed at the NASB meeting.

A few weeks ago, New Albany detected high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a foul smelling gas that can corrode the linings of pipes and be lethal in large doses, in sewage coming out of the east lift station in Georgetown.

Reynolds said New Albany detected spikes of 450 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide at the lift station. The lethal range of the gas is between 322 and 530 ppm. Source Technology offered its services to fix the problem for $16,100, about $9,000 less than the company had proposed earlier in the year, to deal with the odor. There would also be a $59 per day maintenance cost.

Source Technology has performed this service for the town two other times, on the west lift station 16 months ago and at lift stations in the Brookstone neighborhood two months ago.

Reynolds said he hasn't received the other two bids he requested for the treatment, but asked that he be approved to go ahead with a contract, when all bids are received, to clean up the station and that his price ceiling be set at $16,100. He said it was a safety issue for his workers and the problem needed to be fixed as soon as possible. The council approved his request 5-0.

•Announced that Jan. 7 will be Opal Hatfield Day, in honor of the long-time Georgetown resident turning 100 that day. In addition, a celebration will be held at Georgetown Christian Church on Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. Hatfield will be presented with a certificate that authenticates Jan. 7, 2009, as "Opal Hatfield Day."

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