Water, fire, police departments get Board’s attention in April meeting

By JACK TANNEHILL,

There wasn’t any mention of the Street Department in last week’s April meeting of the Union Board of Aldermen; but, every other department got its time at the table.

Mayor Wayne Welch told the Aldermen that Union was still studying what action it will take with regards to County Line Water Association.

Union services about 175 County Line customers and since December 2016 the city has been working to correct what the Mississippi Bureau of Public Water Safety says are deficiencies in pressure and pump capacity.

Currently, Union has contracted with Fontaine Engineering who say that Union is “exploring options to provide reliable water service to these customers.”

In a letter Welch showed Tuesday night, Neshoba County’s Central Water Association stated they will assume responsibility for the bulk (about 135) of the County Line customers and Union can keep about 40 customers in close proximity to the existing booster station.

Central Water’s offer, which expires June 16, is contingent on Union contributing $50,000 to offset the expense of upgrades to the system.

Central Water Association currently serves 6,500 customers in Neshoba County. They have 18 wells, 19 storage tanks and seven treatment tanks.

CWA General Manager Glenn Goldman said “we’re always going to be a good neighbor. We’ll always help any way we can.”

The Aldermen accepted Welch’s recommendation that they make no decision with regards to CWA’s letter until Fontaine completes its study and shows what other options may or may not be available.

In other actions, the Aldermen:

• Union Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dale Yates said the city had received a new fire truck purchased by Newton County. “The city didn’t have to pay for this truck,” he said.

He said the truck was operational but still lacked some necessary equipment and  received the Aldermen’s approval to advertise for the purchase of 14 items that Yates estimated would cost about $6,000.

Yates also said the truck is insured through Newton County, but the current policy mandated that all drives had to be 25-years or older.

The Chief wanted the city to assume the insurance costs and have a policy that would allow firemen as young as 21 to drive the vehicle. He said it would cost about $1,200 annually.

Yates said a roster of his fire department showed that a group of men, under 25, were the most frequent responders and argued, “There’s a real possibility that if we had a fire, there wouldn’t be anybody to drive the truck.”

But, after Alderman Rex Germany said, “I would feel better if we kept it at 25,” and Alderman Stanley Walker concurred, the Board never took a vote on changing the insurance coverage.

Yates also briefed the Board on the status of the city’s principal fire truck. He said it was purchased in 1999 and was nearing the end of it’s life under state regulations. “Right now we don’t any credit toward our insurance rating and we will soon be needing to look at a new truck.”

He said the new truck would cost in the neighborhood of $230,000 and the state would pony up $90,000 toward the purchase if the city also pledged $90,000.

He said there was $144,000 in insurance rebate money in the fire department’s account. According to Yates, that money could not be used for the matching funds; but, would be available to use against the remaining $50,000 of the purchase price.

At the end of his remarks, Yates requested an executive session with the Board to consider what he said was a personnel matter.

He met in a brief closed door meeting with the Aldermen; but, the Board took no votes during the session.

The Board also:

• Heard a presentation from Police Chief Billy Pat Walker on the feasibility of moving Union’s police station from the Bank Street location to the old National Guard armory.

The Alderman have discussed the need for upgrading the city’s physical facilities in the February and March meetings and Walker said he was presenting the proposal to get to what he called “a starting place.”

Walker’s pre-printed handout offered a detailed overview and estimate of what would be needed to bring the vacant facility up to standards for use.

To virtually redo the whole interior that included a complete repainting of the inside, relacing windows, fixing leaks building walls and desk shelves, replacing ceiling tiles and more, he gave an estimate of $20,000.

Other improvements including heat/AC, radio tower, replacing lights and moving phone service totaled another $18,000.

And Walker said that a backup electrical generator would run in the $30,000 range.

Walker said he “understood that the City cannot fund this entire project. We are currently seeking grants to be able to use.”

He said the current police station had pretty much outlived its usefulness.

“We have stuff piled on top of stuff , we’re completely out of space.”

• Had their first meeting with City Attorney Doug Smith in attendance. Smith, who is replacing longtime board attorney Rex Gordon who passed away in December, was hired at the March meeting along with new Municipal Judge Jason Mangum.

Smith will earn $1,200 per month in the position and Magnum will be paid $750 monthly for his services at the twice-a-month scheduled proceedings.

• Agreed to purchase a new city dump trick from Waters International in Meridian for $78,500.

Welch opened the discussion by saying, “Our dump truck is down... it is gone. And, I’m asking that you declare an emergency purchase so that we can get one right away.

By declaring an emergency, the city can authorize the acquisition without taking bids.

“We’re really in bad need of it,” said Welch.

The Board agreed to make the purchase on a three year plan that would be financed for $2,300 per month.

• Accepted the donation of a new drug dog at the request of Chief Walker.

Walker said the 8-month old dog, a Belgian Malinois, was given to Union by Hickory resident Jamie Slay.

“We’re really fortunate to get this dog,” said Walker, “he’s a high dollar animal.”

He said the city would be responsible for training.