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 Carthage Finds Leftover Water Project Money

October 8, 2008 - With the town’s water system improvement project nearly complete, the Carthage Town Council learned last week that the town has about $63,600 in project funding left over.

Speaking at the council’s Oct. 1 meeting, Jon Query of Hannum Wagle & Cline, the project engineer, reported that $63,595 of the $157,500 in contingency fees budgeted for the project were remaining. He said the town would have until Nov. 1 to notify the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development, the agency that funded about 84 percent of $3.1 million project through grants and loans, as to how the town intends to use the money.

Town Council President Rick Bush advised other council members that Rural Development will not allow any of the money to be used to reimburse the town for overtime paid to town employees for project-related work. Council member Jack Taylor questioned the decision to have town employees earning overtime pay doing work related to the project.

Bush said he thought the contributions of town employees ended up saving money on the project, even though the town incurred overtime costs. Taylor was not convinced, saying, “If there is a savings there, I’d like to understand how that was.”

Chuck Todd, the town’s attorney, told council members they should review expenses that the water utility incurred as a result of the project and consider seeking reimbursement from the remaining contingency funds. Query said he would check to see if the town had already been reimbursed for water meters and fire hydrants it had bought and installed.

Query also offered a couple of suggestions for use of some of the $63,595. He said the town could purchase a backup power generator and office furniture for the new water treatment plant, as well as use the money to cover costs associated with state-mandated procedures for the abandonment of the town’s old wells.

The council also discussed at last week’s meeting what to do with wood from trees cut down near the site of the new water treatment plant. Works Manager Jimmie Alcorn advised the council that council member Bill Armstrong had already promised the wood to someone.

Council member Doris Wyatt said she didn’t think it was fair for one person to get all the wood -- particularly someone who lives outside of town -- saying that all town residents were paying for the water project. Taylor said he agreed.

Bush said he thought the town needs to make the wood available to anyone who wants it, and said interested persons should make their inquiries at town hall. No vote was taken by the council approving any particular procedures for getting rid of the wood.

The issue of employee overtime also came up again later in last week’s meeting, when Bush said he wanted get rid of overtime pay for town employees, offering them comp time instead. He said the comp time would accumulate at “time-and-a-half,” meaning four hours of overtime work would earn six hours of time off, and have to be used within 30 days.

Wyatt made a motion to go with the comp time proposal on a two-month trial basis, and discussion of the issue continued for a few more minutes. No other council member was heard making a second to Wyatt’s motion and no vote was taken before the council moved on to other issues.

When asked by The Banner later in the meeting about the status of Wyatt’s motion, Bush and Clerk-Treasurer Linda McMahan both said Taylor had seconded the motion and that all four council members present (Vice President Wanda Henderson was absent) had voted for it. While an audio recording of the meeting does not support those claims, council members Taylor, Wyatt and Armstrong did not dispute them.

The council also voted last week to limit the number of trash containers town residents can set out for weekly pick up to two. The town’s service contract with trash hauler Best Way is based on each resident having a single trash container, and attorney Todd said Best Way could charge the town more if households are setting out extra containers, a cost that could be passed on to residents.

McMahan advised the council that the town still owes the Internal Revenue Service about $3,600 in penalties and interest as the result of her predecessor, Janet Warren, not properly filing quarterly payroll reports in 2004. She said the town had already paid over $6,200 with respect to this matter, and that the remaining amount owed will come out of the town’s bank account on Oct. 16.

The council received a brief presentation at last week’s meeting from a representative of American Legal Publishing, an Ohio firm that codifies ordinances for municipalities. At the urging of their legal counsel, the town is considering having Carthage’s ordinances codified, something that would give the town’s laws a degree of organization they don’t now have.

Joe McDonough of ALP told the council that codification would likely cost the town $3,000-$4,000, which could be spread out over two budget years, plus an estimated $200-$300 a year to keep the codified ordinances updated. McDonough said he will prepare and send the town a written proposal.


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