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Lebanon council OK's energy use contract

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The fee for the evaluation study amounts to $25,000 from the city, which Jeff Baines, commissioner of Public Works, said is the only risk the city has in allowing the company to perform the study.

“The information we’re going to get is well worth $25,000,” Baines told the council members.

Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino asked Baines if the money was in the Public Works Department’s budget, and Baines said it was not. However, he explained if the city decides to follow through with a larger contract for the company to implement their improvements to city facilities the $25,000 would be waived.

During the Feb. 1 presentation by Johnson Controls, representatives said the city would not have to pay the $25,000 if they entered into a long term contract, or if the benefits of the improvements did not outweigh the cost.

Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler said if the savings are going to be what Johnson Controls estimated, a possible $850,000 to $900,000 annually, then the $25,000 was “hardly any risk at all.”

Johnson Controls’ contract said the study would begin in two weeks on March 15 and end tentatively on June 24 and the results would be presented to the council at that time.

Also, the council unanimously approved a resolution to borrow $2.9 million from the Public Building Authority of the City of Clarksville to pay for public works projects, specifically water and sewer systems.

The projects carried out under the loan agreement include storage tank rehabilitation on Leeville Pike at a cost of $425,000; replacing water line with 16-inch pipe replacement on Old Hunters Point Pike for $470,000; CIP rehabilitation at Walker’s Branch and Tarver Branch totaling $500,000; and the West Main sewer rehabilitation for $1,500,000.

During a work session Tuesday afternoon prior to the meeting, Mayor Philip Craighead and Baines said the debt would be paid through an increase in fees. Calculations during the work session by Baines and Commissioner of Finance Russell Lee indicated the fees would increase by about 12 percent.

Buhler asked what that kind of rate increase would generate for the city, and Lee and others estimated it could bring in around $1,080,000 in one year. A bill that costs $40 a month would increase by $4.80. The projects covered by the loan agreement are required to be completed by 2015 under a consent order made by the State of Tennessee in 2004.

“We all did a poor job of looking at this budget for water and sewer back in May and June,” Baines said.

Also during the meeting, Cesternino spoke out regarding the city’s Line Item Budget that he felt muddies the focus of the council by having them approve line item transfers that he thought could be handled by city department heads.

“If we can’t trust our department heads to make a transfer of $2,500 then we’ve got bigger problems,” Cesternino said.

He said thought should be put into allowing department heads to make transfers of up to $2,500 without those transfers having to be approved by a vote of the council. He also proposed allowing the Mayor to approve transfers of up to $5,000 without a council vote.

Cesternino pointed out the council was voting on an ordinance that included a $10 line item transfer for office supplies during that night’s meeting. He said a department head could surely make a proper decision in transferring $10 from one line item to another.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston opposed the idea saying in the past, department heads would move and spend money simply because if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be returning the following year.

“To move it around like Chinese checkers, I don’t agree with that,” Huddleston said regarding line item transfers.

Also, Buhler said he felt that making transfers in this way was not a proper way to move money around. He said departments have taken money allocated in the budget for one reason to another line item to cover wasteful spending.

“There is still a lot of waste in this city, and maybe there will always be waste in government,” Buhler said.

Craighead and Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry noted that some flexibility in the line item transfer system is needed, however they weren’t sure how to achieve that flexibility.

“There should be a way to make things a little easier,” Craighead said.

Cesternino also asked the council to schedule a work session to “talk about jobs and economic stimulus” and how to recruit businesses to the city and put local people to work.

He expressed concern over a Kentucky-based company getting the bid to build the new Lebanon High School when there were local contractors that could have performed the job just as well. He asked for a look into giving preferences to local contractors and vendors when bidding jobs.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution to honor the late U.S. Army Spc. Michael Stansbery Jr. by requesting that the bridge on Highway 70 crossing over Highway 109 be named in his memory.

Stansbery, a 2007 graduate of Wilson Central High School, was killed on Aug. 6, 2010, by an improvised explosive device in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan while serving in the 101st Airborne Division. Stansbery’s name was engraved onto the Wilson County War Memorial on Veterans’ Day in 2010.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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