Commission Meeting Minutes – January 18, 2018
For your consideration, please read the minutes from the Commission Meeting held on Thursday, January 18, 2018.
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Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission
1703 Gloucester Street, Brunswick, GA 31520
Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 2:00 PM
Donald M. Elliott, Chairman
Mike Browning, Vice-Chairman
Cornell L. Harvey, Commissioner
Clifford Adams, Commissioner
Steve Copeland, Commissioner
Tripp Stephens, Commissioner
G. Ben Turnipseed, Commissioner
Jimmy Junkin, Executive Director
Charlie Dorminy, Legal Counsel HBS
Andrew Burroughs, Deputy Executive Director
Todd Kline, Director of Engineering
Pam Crosby, Director of Procurement
John D. Donaghy, Director of Finance
Jay Sellers, Director of Administration
Cindy Barnhart, T.S.I.
Chairman Elliott called the meeting to order at 2:05 PM.
Chairman Elliott provided the invocation and Commissioner Stephens led the pledge.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
Chairman Elliott opened the public comment period.
Monica Smith – Academy Creek
Monica Smith expressed that she appreciated the minutes recording public comments received. She then addressed Commissioner Turnipseed’s comment from the January 17th Workshop. She stated that if she understood him correctly, he seems to be of the opinion that as long as the Wastewater Plant at Academy Creek meets minimum standards or does not exceed permit limitations that we don’t really have to worry about it. She mentioned that about 40 years ago an engineer told her that he didn’t worry about the effluent from the landfill contaminating the neighbors’ groundwater wells because if their wells got contaminated, they could just hook them up to the municipal system. At that time, she found that unacceptable. She also finds it unacceptable now to argue that an old plant that is pouring out pollutants into the river need not be addressed, and she hoped that they would take to heart what would be presented to them today and follow through. She then thanked the Commission.
There being no additional citizens for public comment, Chairman Elliott closed the public comment period.
Certificate Presentations – C. Harvey / C. Barnhart
Steven Allen West – Water Distribution Operator
Donnie Keith Hendricks – Water Distribution Operator
Commissioner Harvey presented Steven Allen West and then Donnie Keith Hendricks with their Water Distribution Operator certification and congratulated them. Cindy Barnhart and their supervisor Derrick Simmons were also present to recognize these employees.
Chairman Elliott requested that Mr. Junkin add to an upcoming Commission Meeting a discussion regarding the licensing process and what they are licensed for. Commissioner Harvey offered to lead that discussion item.
There were no Committee meetings in January and there have not been new assignments made yet to the Committees, therefore there were no Committee updates.
- Minutes from the January 4, 2018 Regular Commission Meeting
Commissioner Stephens noted one correction on the minutes from January 4, 2018 Regular Commission Meeting in the section for Election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman. 4th sentence, “Nomination carried for Commissioner Stephens as Chairman 3-4-0” should read “Nomination carried for Commissioner Browning as Chairman 3-4-0.” Commissioner Stephens then asked if it would be possible to receive the minutes in advance.
Commissioner Copeland made a motion seconded by Commissioner Harvey to accept the minutes with the change from the January 4, 2018 Regular Commission Meeting. Motion carried 7-0-0.
- Approval of BB&T Merchant Services – J. Donaghy
John Donaghy presented the recommendation for the approval of BB&T Merchant Services. He noted that JWSC has several methods for customers to pay their bills. Two of them being using either a credit or debit card at the Customer Service counters or going through the citizen portal to pay their bill online. The customers that pay at the counter pay their full bill and then JWSC pays a percentage of those charges to a merchant processor, currently a company called Bankcard. Mr. Donaghy continued to explain that customers who pay online pay an additional fee of $2.75 to pay their bill online, and that service is provided by Paymentus Corporation, and is interfaced with our billing software. BB&T has presented us with a merchant services agreement whereby the fees that are absorbed by the JWSC at the Customer Service counter are reduced to an amount less than what we are currently paying. We also can process the online payments with the JWSC absorbing the fee rather than having the customer pay an additional fee for the convenience of paying online, which has been a bit of an issue over the past few months. That fee for paying online would be approximately 1.98% of the customer’s bill. Payment online and to some extent payment at the counter require a change in our software. The Harris Computer Company up until recently has been a bit proprietary with the gateway, which is the electronic interface between their software and third party processors that process the online payments or credit cards. There has been some pressure on Harris by us and other customers to open that up to be able to use our own banks to process those payments. Mr. Donaghy advised that we signed an agreement with Harris last week to have those modifications done to our software and that process is getting underway with BB&T Bank to be able to get that software communication working. He noted that staff recommends that the JWSC accept the attached Merchant Services Pricing Offers from BB&T Bank and proceed with the software changes necessary to provide online payment at no additional cost to the customer.
Commissioner Browning questioned the statement from the memo that read, “The other half are credit cards which have fees of 1.93% to 3.23%. Mr. Donaghy clarified that the fee structures that the processors have are slightly different. Commissioner Browning then questioned that with the BB&T proposal the credit card fee would be reduced from a minimum of 1.93% to 1.79%, and asked if this is the minimum what would be the maximum? Mr. Donaghy replied that BB&T is proposing a flat fee for that; rather than the fee going up to 3.23% with our current processor, BB&T is proposing 1.79% for all credit cards. Chairman Elliott questioned if this was per transaction. Mr. Donaghy advised that this was 1.79% of the customer’s bill. Commissioner Browning then questioned the statement on the memo that read, “The fees for credit card payments made online have a slightly higher rate of 1.98%.” Mr. Donaghy clarified that there is a different processing for BB&T to take the credit card payments online as opposed to have them swiped on the machines at the Customer Service area. Commissioner Browning also noted the statement, “Absorption of this fee by the JWSC would eliminate the customer paying a convenience fee.” Mr. Donaghy advised that this was what was being proposed. Commissioner Browning clarified that if we vote for this, whatever that fee is the bank charges, we are going to pay it. Mr. Donaghy advised that is what we are proposing, and it would result in some additional costs for those payments online that is going to be somewhat offset by the reduction in payments at the counter, and hopefully by taking the payments online and the customers being able to pay online it will cut down on the foot traffic in the lobby allowing those folks to answer more phone calls and take care of customers to a greater extent. Commissioner Browning questioned if we know what the bottom line is, will we see a loss in revenue, an increase in revenue, or about the same? Mr. Donaghy advised there might be a slight increase in costs if we get a higher adoption rate. He added that when we talked to Paymentus who we could also absorb that fee through Paymentus but it would be at $1.75 per transaction, rather than a sliding scale on the percentage of the transaction that this is proposing. Their typical adoption rates are 35 to 40% of customers go to paying online through that method. Commissioner Browning then asked if we know how much is paid in total online every month. Mr. Donaghy advised that we do keep track of that. Commissioner Adams suggested that this may need to be looked at because he recalled perhaps a number of $140,000 being mentioned at one time in a past discussion. Mr. Donaghy advised that the numbers discussed previously were if JWSC absorbed the $1.75 convenience fee for all customers. That equates to an average bill of well over $100, but most of our customers’ bills are $50 to $75 for a typical customer. So it would be less than the number that was quoted before. Chairman Elliott noted that executing this has no impact on whether we absorb the cost right now. Mr. Donaghy confirmed that. Chairman Elliott continued that two things are being mixed here in that the memo lays out what is wanted to be done and stopped from being done, “but actually moving to BB&T is beneficial because it overall lowers the cost of credit card transactions, is that correct?” Mr. Donaghy confirmed that it does at the Customer Service counter, and this will actually take a couple of steps to do. The implementation people are starting with the Customer Service terminals first, and then this is still subject to making the software work between Harris who sells us the Innoprise product and BB&T. They believe it can be done, but it is not proven as of yet. Chairman Elliott added the association picking up the costs of this should be part of the budget process this year, and at that time you should have cost numbers so that you can tell us what you project the number of credit card transactions to be absorbing the cost for, and then the Commission can make a decision on that portion of this. He continued, “I think that moving to BB&T from Paymentus is probably a good thing since they are our banker.” He noted that he would just say to the Commissioners that they only thing we want to do is approve movement to BB&T away from Paymentus which is expensive when you look at it. Mr. Donaghy noted that now we have two separate providers of the Merchant Services, one with Bankcard for Customer Service and Paymentus for online. Chairman Elliott confirmed that now having both will go away, and we will have only one to go talk to. Mr. Donaghy confirmed. Commissioner Stephens clarified that if somebody comes in to the lobby to pay with a credit card, we are still paying the fee for that credit card. Mr. Donaghy confirmed. Commissioner Stephens continued, “So now we are getting a lower fee for that transaction.” Mr. Donaghy confirmed. Commissioner Stephens noted, “The only adder is somebody now can pay online which is a slight increase compared to in the lobby, but at that point we are not tying up a staff member in the lobby.” He also noted that he sees this as a very positive thing. Mr. Donaghy noted that we would be absorbing some transaction fee for that person paying online, but in return we are hopefully getting our money faster, and it goes directly into our bank so it is available to us sooner, and as you said hopefully would cut down on the lobby traffic. Commissioner Stephens mentioned that for persons who are currently sending a check in, you don’t have to physically cash the check, physically enter it, etc. “I see this as a very positive thing, and I would love to pay online as a ratepayer.” On a side note, he questioned if this sort of matter had to have Commission approval or could it be a staff decision? Mr. Donaghy provided that the Merchant Services was actually a part of BB&T’s proposal when they were selected to be JWSC’s bank, however there were agreements with Bankcard and Paymentus which we would have to cancel, and again with the question of absorbing or not absorbing the convenience fee, he felt this should come before the Commission for a decision. He added that normally once the contract with BB&T is approved, this type of thing is taken care of internally. Commissioner Browning asked about the software changes and if they were a big expense item. Mr. Donaghy noted it was about $7,000. Commissioner Browning asked about any legacy cost or annual cost. Mr. Donaghy responded, “No”, and added that they are making a change that will be effective for all the software, and that any subsequent updates to the software would be at no charge. Commissioner Harvey noted that he felt the Commission should be advised what the savings will be with going to BB&T, with the cost of doing business being cheaper, plus the fees that are going to be cheaper. But if we absorb that cost, he should be able to advise that an amount of money would be saved or if it is going to be a wash and everything be the same; somewhere in there should be a breakeven point of where we are with making this change. Commissioner Stephens agreed that was a great point and an opportunity to take advantage of some good publicity. Commissioner Harvey reflected on a change in the system before where we were not good with the public and not good in our billing system software, and explained that this is why they may be leery of a change, but in the end he thinks this is going to be beneficial for us, but would like to know what amount of money it could save. He added that hopefully this will be a seamless operation in the software with no glitches. Mr. Junkin noted that they should be able to provide the value this will be to JWSC. Commissioner Copeland mentioned that he would like to see the opportunity of JWSC customers being able to pay their bill at a BB&T office. He noted that if BB&T is handling our payments, why couldn’t our customers walk into their office and make a payment at a BB&T office with a BB&T teller? He asked if we could explore this with BB&T. Mr. Donaghy said we could check on that with BB&T. Commissioner Browning readdressed Commissioner Stephens’ question of if this was something that the Commission should be dealing with, and noted that he thinks it is. Considering all the costs, he believes that the Commissioners should understand everything involved, in addition to providing support for the staff in decisions made, as well as be engaged.
Commissioner Stephens made a motion seconded by Commissioner Browning to move that the Joint Water & Sewer Commission accept the attached Merchant Services Pricing Offers from BB&T and authorize the Director of Finance to execute the necessary documents. Motion carried 7-0-0.
- Academy Creek Assessment – J. Kizer, Constantine Engineering
Mr. Junkin introduced the presentation to be made by Jim Kizer from Constantine Engineering. He noted that on the previous day at the workshop the maintenance and upgrade needs and their assessments were discussed. Jim Kizer was asked to provide a presentation overview of the conditions at the Academy Creek Plant in terms of the theoretical design of the plant versus its performance requirements and permit, and to give a walk-through of the business case for what JWSC should do, what Mr. Kizer thinks should be done, and give the Commission a chance to that this information to consider where we need to go in the future. Mr. Kizer began by advising that the initial draft of the evaluation of the Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant was presented a couple of months prior to this meeting. During that presentation a couple of different alternatives were discussed. One was to simply go through and do some significant upgrades to the existing Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to improve, repair and replace worn equipment for the existing processes. The other alternative was to go in and completely upgrade the plant and install a new three stage process that would treat the wastewater to lower limits, to the more stringent limits, it would have reduced operations and maintenance costs, and it would provide the flexibility for the wastewater treatment plant to receive other revenue streams such as fats, oils and greases, septage and high strength wastes. It would also provide lower solids generation and lower solids disposal costs. The purpose of this presentation was to go over the advantages of both of these alternatives and summarize the original presentation. He then referenced an aerial view of the Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and noted the locations of the UNOX basins and the clarifiers, and provided the processes and purposes of each. Mr. Kizer then discussed the various current average ranges and permitted limits for the Influent Flow of the plant and also the Effluent Biochemical Oxygen Demand. He explained the reasoning of his assessment that the plant is not performing at optimal processing levels, and that not all of the basins are in operation at this time, and the plant is operating at about only 50% of the flow capacity. Next, he discussed and explained the Effluent TSS ranges and the permit limits for those, along with an explanation of the biological and bacterial processes of the UNOX system. Mr. Kizer provided details regarding the Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant capacity limited by clarifier solids loading and plant capacity limitations as limited by the clarifiers. He then addressed the sludge blanket depth and that it is rising. Chairman Elliott questioned if a flow analysis has been done based on everything that is being done in terms of expanding the capacity of the North Mainland to see what the flows are going to be into that plant when the SPLOST Projects are completed and with the desired development in that area. Mr. Kizer indicated that was a part of the information contained in the Master Plan as discussed in the workshop on Wednesday. Mr. Junkin indicated that currently about 500 to 600 REU’s per year are being sold with over 50% being in the mainland, which means all that will be coming into the plant. There is a steady increase in growth in the waste stream coming into the plant, expecting between ¾ to 1% annual growth, maybe as much as 1-1/2% growth of waste water coming into the plant as a result of new customers. Chairman Elliott then asked about the area north of FLETC, west of Canal Road, on the south side of the Spur which is planned for development and if this was included in the Master Plan that was done in 2015. Mr. Junkin noted this was to be a combination of residential and retail development. Chairman Elliott expressed that the developers would be expecting for the capacity to be there, and it was important for the Commission to understand if there will be capacity when it is known what the projected timelines are for development. Mr. Junkin advised a more detailed analysis could be done, but that what he is understanding from what Mr. Kizer is presenting is that today we are okay and we can take some more, but we are climbing that curve. Chairman expressed concern that he does not want developers to believe we have the capacity, especially if the plant is at the top portion of the curve or is getting close to some issues where it cannot handle it. There was some additional discussion regarding possible future development in the area. Mr. Kizer then continued his presentation to discuss the significant costs of operating this outdated UNOX process including maintenance costs. The UNOX treatment technology requires significant costs for liquid oxygen used for a pure oxygen source for aeration and there is a high solids disposal cost because of low solids retention times. The operating and maintenance costs have continued to rise over the past 3 years, and are projected to increase by 3% annually to about $1.62M and will continue to increase. Mr. Kizer provided the estimate that the existing 54 year old UNOX treatment technology at the Academy Creek Plant has significant operating and maintenance costs that are nearly 300% greater than those costs of new wastewater technology that offer improved performance. Significant issues of concern at Academy Creek Treatment Plant are various with regard to the extensive equipment that is operating beyond their useful life and are worn and in the need of extensive repair or replacement. These are in addition to other significant issues of concern which include the lack of capacity of clarifiers, lack of capacity for expansion, and possibilities such as future NPDES permitting might include total phosphorus limits and the existing process will require chemical phosphorus removal at significant costs. Mr. Kizer then presented a list of various benefits of implementing long-term improvements to replace the UNOX process. Various alternatives and processes were presented as approaches to repair or replace the existing UNOX treatment process at Academy Creek. Two charts were also presented comparing annual cost comparisons. One compared the annual cost comparison between alternatives 2 and 4 as presented to include comparing the total annual costs, annual O & M costs, and annual debt service (@3.75%) of each of these two alternatives. The second chart compared the same details between alternatives 4 and 5. There was much final discussion regarding the details as presented for the alternatives for the consideration of upgrades for the Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
- Waste Water Treatment Plant Flows Update – M. Ryals
Mark Ryals presented to the Commission the Plant Flows update for each of the Academy Creek, Dunbar and Southport plants. He briefly mentioned the Academy Creek Plant and Jim Kizer’s presentation. He noted that technology does change, and that there is a need to keep up with the challenges and changes, and discussed many of the changes that have occurred at the plant through the past many years. Mr. Ryals did note that the plant flows are within permit limits. Commissioner Harvey asked if there was anything significant they needed to know at this time regarding the plant flows. Mr. Ryals responded nothing significant and added that for December 2017 the influent and effluent, there was a bit higher effluent than influent due to running a lot of water trying to keep the foam down, take the chlorine to the level and also were pressing a lot. He noted Academy Creek running at 55% average at this time. Commissioner Turnipseed commented on the operators doing a very good job at the 2 plants he has been to, and that they are to be commended. He asked what the influent and effluent phosphorus levels were at Academy Creek. Mr. Ryals noted that they do not have to monitor the influent phosphorus, but they did monitor it for Mr. Kizer, who provided that it was at about 6mg per liter. The effluent also stays at about the same. Commissioner Turnipseed also noted the increases of the plant capacities during times of rainfall and the hurricane. Chairman Elliott asked about the new permit for Dunbar and it being increased. Mr. Ryals noted they are trying to get a modification. Currently they are waiting on the Academy Creek permit, which was submitted this month to the EPD. Commissioner Stephens inquired about the Academy Creek rainfall in November 2017 of 9.1 inches, and only 1 inch on the Island, and noted that the 9.1 was about the biggest raise on the chart, but it doesn’t really affect the percent of plant capacity. Mr. Ryals noted that they only use one rain gauge which is located right by the office, and it might be falling here or there. It could be falling right on the plant where the effluent might be higher but the influent not. When it is raining elsewhere, that would come in through the I & I, but what is falling at the plant won’t necessarily affect the influent. Commissioner Turnipseed commented and clarified for the other Commissioners that the Dunbar Creek plant is more like the processes proposed for Academy Creek. It is not exactly, but is the same type. He noted that one can evaluate that and see that the effluent BOD of ammonia and solids is a little lower, but they are both well within permit. Commissioner Harvey agreed, but also noted that Dunbar Creek plant has more water infiltration and rainwater coming in.
- The Role and Purpose of the Commission and Its Members – M. Browning
Commissioner Browning placed this item on the agenda to discuss and clarify the role and purpose of the Commission. He noted that his view of the Commission is that they are here to create policy, approve the budget, be present as a sounding board and a feedback board, and to provide direction for when Mr. Junkin has an initiative that will move the organization forward and should be brought before the full Board. Commissioner Browning also noted that when one of the Commissioners has an idea or initiative that will likewise benefit the operation they should bring it to the full Board in the meeting room, which is where they do their work as a Board. He has seen some things that lead him to believe there is work going on that they have not all been made “privy” of and are not transparent. He wants them to be as transparent as they can amongst themselves and to the public and to the operation that is working here. He thinks if they are not transparent, they may lose the confidence of the public and the employees. Commissioner Browning then spoke about a situation which had all good intentions behind it, all good intentions on the part of the Chairman and Director, but was handled completely wrong. He thought it should be talked about so they could learn from it to help make a better Commission and have a stronger relationship with the Director. He noted that the situation he wanted to speak about was meant with all good intentions for the welfare of the entire operation going forward, and he could not fault for what was wanted to be done, but the process. He expressed great respect for the Chairman and the Director, and beliefs that the current Commission with all their backgrounds will be a good as it can get, especially working with the Director. Commissioner Browning then explained that the situation he is speaking of was the effort to get the one cent sales tax moved along with the State Delegation. He recalled that the first serious effort he saw in trying to move that forward was an invite to go to a meeting of which he was not sure what it was about, but when he got there and found out what it was about, he was troubled because there were only three Commissioners there. He noted that anything that a Commissioner or the Director has that is believed to benefit the operation should be brought in front of the full Commission in the meeting room to discuss and decide if they should move forward with it. At that particular meeting, there was State Delegation members, community leaders and this was brought up as a way to get much needed funds, which he thought was a noble cause. At the end of that meeting, Commissioner Browning was convinced it was a dead issue with all those who could make it happen. After that, he read in the newspaper that there was an effort from JWSC talking with the State Delegation to get this one cent tax moving along, which surprised him. At that time he felt that the Board had not been brought into the loop and he wasn’t sure what was going on, he was taking phone calls from the community asking him to explain it, and he did not have the answers for it. He thought this put the State Delegation in a position where they realized that the full Board had not been a party to moving forward and having discussions with them to get this going. Commissioner Browning received a phone call from one of the members of the State Delegation who he noted was quite upset. He added that at this point he believes everyone understands that this is a “dead horse” and is not going to happen and from what he is hearing it would never happen. Commissioner Browning continued that had this been brought up in the Commission room early on in the way he is trying to suggest that these matters should be handled, his comments then and comments today would be that he can tell you on an issue such as that where our State Delegation has to move legislation forward in Atlanta, they are not going to do anything like that unless they have the blessings of the City and the County Commissions. He added that he could have told them at the time that while it might sound good and be something we need, it is just not going to happen. Another issue he has is how JWSC is perceived by the public and we need the public’s support. We need the public to understand and know the issues that we are facing, but they also need to know that we are working and looking for solutions and looking for fixes every day. When they see this type of action going on and read about it in the paper, he believes they lose a little confidence in us. That is something he wants JWSC to be very attentive to. He noted appreciation for everything the Chairman and Director do to try to find much needed funds, and we may have been a little over zealous. Commissioner Browning summed up by noting that he thinks the entire Commission will work better if all ideas for solutions are put on the agenda and brought to the full Commission for discussion. He does not want any lines drawn between the Commission and the Director, but he thinks there is a line in how they approach to get things done. He sees their role as working together to make decisions and see where they can get things going and move forward.
Commissioner Harvey commented that he is in agreement with Commissioner Browning, basically on the one issue pertaining to the one cent sales tax and that he had been blindsided also, and thought it was a dead issue. He thought it would have been discussed in full Commission to see where they would go with it. He added that when one person is “privy” or requests information, then they should all get that information. For example, he had asked for the status of cutting off water for people in the City, and that information would come to the full Board, not just to him. Acting in unison only makes the Commission stronger. If things are being moved to our State Legislators without the full Board knowing exactly what we are doing, then that is something that should not be done. Commissioner Harvey added when asked, that he does not want to be in a position of not knowing what is going on.
Commissioner Stephens commented that he has worked for various Boards in his career. He added that for a well-functioning Board, there has got to be a limitation between the individual Board contacts with the staff. He also noted that with a few exceptions, generally it is inappropriate for Board members one on one to be contacting staff and making arrangements or anything, and things should flow through the full Board. This is from his observation during his past years of working on various Boards.
Commissioner Browning explained that he is also a Glynn County Commissioner, and they do not have a Commission office. The Commissioners allow the County Manager to run the County operations. He added that personally and as a Commissioner, he wants Mr. Junkin to run the JWSC operations. Additionally when the Commission sets policy, the budget, and they brainstorm over new ideas, he wants Mr. Junkin to develop it and consult with the full Commission when necessary. Commissioner Browning noted that Mr. Junkin is capable and he has complete confidence in him, the Deputy Director and the staff.
Commissioner Harvey commented that he does not completely agree. If we keep adequate communications and let each board member know what is going on, he thinks that should suffice, and does not think any Board member should be kept from coming to the office to talk with the Executive Director. If he receives any specific direction from a Board member, then it is his responsibility to let the other board members know because he works for all of the Commissioners. He should get all of the Commissioners together to discuss the direction in that case. Commissioner Harvey clarified that especially if one Commissioner who has the expertise sees something he thinks should be brought to Mr. Junkin’s attention he should be able to discuss it with him, and then he can bring it to the full Board. The responsibility to communicate with the full Board does not lie only with the Director, but with all the Commission members.
Mr. Junkin commented that his perception would be that all the Commissioners would not want to hear from him every day on the level of day to day operations, and he will generally pass some things through the Chairman who could disseminate it to the other Commissioners. Chairman Elliott noted that for all e-mails to him the other Commissioners should be copied, and for any responses they make, they should reply to all to keep within the loop, and this would work out well. He added that he believed this is what Commissioner Browning is trying to achieve here is a seven member loop. Commissioner Browning agreed that it is good for them to all know, especially about what is going on in the community.
- December 2017 Month End Financial Statements – J. Donaghy
John Donaghy presented the December 2017 month end financial statement, including the information for the first six months of the current fiscal year. He noted some balances that were affected by the refunding of the 2010C bonds during December. First he reviewed the Balance sheet. Mr. Donaghy addressed a question from one of the Commissioners who asked about the fund balances between the Capital Fees and the Unrestricted, which are about $24M, and asked if these funds were actually available. Mr. Donaghy advised that this fund balance is really an equity, and not funds in an account. The technical title for that section should be “Net Position”, which is a change he will be making. Mr. Donaghy continued to note specific details on the financial reports, with notation of balances and reserves affected by the 2010C bond refunding, lower interest rates, etc. Commissioner Copeland expressed concern to be sure that a detail separate line item is kept to reflect the monies saved and held from the Bond refunding. Mr. Donaghy continued to discuss the Combined Revenue statement for the year. Chairman Elliott commented that it had been agreed to have under the sewer revenue the gallons processed, and under the water revenue the gallons processed so that we have that revenue noted per gallon for each, and the water production cost should also be noted on the report each month. Mr. Donaghy reviewed the operating revenues and operating expenses for a year to date New Operating Revenue of about $6.1M. After taking into account additional expenses the Net Revenue Before Capital Fees and SPLOST came to about $1.4M, and then adding in the unbudgeted revenues the year to date total for Net Revenues to about $2.89M. After factoring in the outstanding purchase orders the Net Revenues totaled $1.26M. Mr. Donaghy then reviewed the Overtime Report and the 2017-2018 Project Report.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATE
Mr. Junkin commented that the workshop from the prior day was more to illustrate to what is going on with the Capital Needs, Tap Fees and the overview of R & R Needs for the long run. Andrew Burroughs’ presentation on Tap Fees was well received, and he had received a call from one of the local Commissioners who had attended. Commissioner Browning noted that the same commissioner had also called him. Commissioner Browning shared that what was wanted was for JWSC to decide where we are going to go with one of these options as presented at the workshop, JWSC getting down to work and when we get ready to go with it bring the City and County back in for their comments on the decision for possible tweaking. They do not want to be a part of the actual decision of what to do. Commissioner Browning also advised that this Commissioner is interested in us getting the rates reset quickly. Commissioner Stephens agreed that there should be some urgency to resetting the rates. Mr. Junkin also agreed that especially for the community there is a sense of urgency. Commissioner Stephens requested that materials be prepared with the information, including comparisons with other utilities rates along the east coast, and have that forwarded to the Commissioners for review to prepare for discussion and possibly voting due to the sense of urgency. Mr. Junkin noted that there is a comparison done every year on the tap fees, so that information is already on hand to use for comparison with any of the selections from the options as prepared by Andrew. Also, a table for comparison can be provided between the different scenarios for restaurants and for multi-family units and forwarded to the Commissioners for their consideration, with a possible vote in the next Commission meeting.
Chairman Elliott provided a package for the Commissioners to reference during his discussion. He began by noting that when the Master plan was received he had created a plan for five years that laid out based on priority the Rehabilitation and Expansion projects of things that at that time he thought were priority. He then noted that one of the things that has bothered him the most is that there is a sense in the community that we have no plan. He requested the Commission to support directing the Executive Director to build a plan similar to that which Chairman Elliott had built in 2016 that explained where every dollar was going to go that was needed. He advised that Mr. Junkin should take what’s in the Master Plan, what he has looked at, probably put the sewer plants into a separate category because they are so expensive, and develop a five year plan. Chairman Elliott suggested that staff is to develop this plan, make justified adjustments as necessary and keep it maintained at least quarterly to see where we are on the projects as placed on this plan. He would like to see the plan on the website for public viewing. The last page of the package as provided related to REU’s and was a chart he had also developed at the same time in 2016. It showed the REU’s collected by District. Using the Excel function, a trend line was able to be developed based on the history to estimate how much money might be collected in terms of tap fees to do projects with. Chairman Elliott noted that, “We do not have a good foundation and the community is expecting us to do things where we do not have the foundation to do it. We can lower the tap fees, but there will not be infrastructure in there for growth.” He added that we do not have a set amount of revenue that we are going to pull from. He stated that in his opinion we do not want to rush into anything and go to a lower tap fee like it was in 2013. Chairman Elliott suggested to quit looking at near term solutions and look at this in a 50 year window, and look at how this community is going to grow in the next 50 years.
Commissioner Stephens agreed that there is a lot of work to do, but he respectfully disagreed with the fact that we need to wait too long. He stated that we have a lot of work to do that is going to take some time, and that in the interim I don’t believe we can just shut Glynn County and Brunswick down and that is effectively what we have done in a lot of areas. There is a lot of development that is not happening in Glynn County and can’t because of our rates. Commissioner Stephens suggested that we look at it hard and we make some hard decisions early on so we can get Glynn County and Brunswick back operating. He added that we can’t fall behind the curve by not continuing to allow others to invest in Glynn County. The reality is that I would argue in this Commission that most of the small communities out there are dealing with similar issues. We can’t isolate this county and the city.
Mr. Junkin added even if we stick with the more expensive base rate that we have now, I think one of the issues we would be facing could be it seems like the county wants to grow in every direction. We will never have enough money with charging tap fees or capital improvement fees to do everything everybody wants, it’s just not possible, not with the number of taps or REU’s that we sell each year. He offered for the staff to meet and forward a recommendation on to the Commission, via e-mail for their analysis. Chairman Elliott then added that he does not want to be rushed in to staff presenting the Commission an e-mail without a look at what the plan is, and I really believe that you have to have a plan first before you move to the next step, and I would say that at this point we have a four year plan that I developed that hasn’t been updated. He continued stating we need to have a new plan to pick out projects. Mr. Junkin noted that Andrew had already done that as part of the presentation from yesterday, and we’ll take that, extend that and come up with a master list in the order of priorities as we think they should be. Chairman Elliott added that the Commission would come in and use our collective wisdom to figure out what your priorities are, and then we will talk about tap fees.
Commissioner Stephens questioned if the goal is that we will vote at the next meeting, or are we saying no we are not. Chairman Elliott responded that he was not in a rush to it. Commissioner Browning noted that he was not so sure that we need a plan to identify projects. Mr. Junkin offered that he would at least work up a priority list so the Commissioners can see the things that staff thinks are coming up and the order of priority to get them done as soon as the money comes in. Commissioner Browning then commented that one of the beefs that we are hearing from the community is that we have priced ourselves out of the market. He added that it didn’t matter what kind of plan there was, with these high tap rates, and we are not talking about the residential tap fees, we are talking about these high end restaurant and multi-units; we were hoping that staff could find some other way or some other formula to do tap fees that would get them into what we can all somehow agree are market rates that puts us back to where people want to come in here. Commissioner Browning also noted that those are the projects that count, because we do have elected officials in other places that want to see growth in Glynn County, and it may make our job tougher down here, but one of the problems we have and the reason we have been down here discussing this is the commercial tap fees. Mr. Junkin suggested that the alternatives that Mr. Burroughs put together, all five of them or any combination thereof, will reduce substantially, with dramatic reductions in what we would be charging those commercial establishments right now. We will work with it however the Commission decides to lay it out there for us; we will put the information together and get it to you. Chairman Elliott noted that he is does want to make sure the infrastructure is there. He added that restaurants put the greatest pressure on the system, and if the infrastructure isn’t there, that’s a problem because we could wind up in a real situation, and he would like to look at the REU count downstream from places that want to build. He questioned if staff could be ready for a workshop for January 31 devoted to tap fees for commercial businesses and that has to be supported not necessarily by the level of plan as discussed, but details such as the downstream conveyance of the amount of sewage that we may have and issues with water pressure that we may have. Mr. Junkin asked for clarification. Chairman Elliott noted the area of Canal Crossing all the way to the plant, and provided questions to be answered such as: How much can we handle? How many REU’s can we handle? What does a restaurant produce in terms of max flow or daily flow? Are we going to do it based on peak flow? Commissioner Harvey questioned if this was only concerning this happening on the mainland or if some issues happening on St. Simons as well? Chairman Elliott noted that the St. Simons issues are a couple to it, but they are not as significant right now. Commissioner Browning stated that he was not so sure that the Board is ready to go along with all this and added that during the workshop on the prior day he thought that they were getting Andrew to put the details on a chart where the Commissioners can all look at them and let’s start deciding where we want to go. He commented that he is ready to take what Andrew brought to the table and let’s start looking at these things individually see what we think we like individually on these rates and then come back together in a work session on the 31st. Commissioner Stephens suggested that the very next day is the regular Commission meeting, and that it could be brought to that meeting, discussed and a vote taken. Commissioner Browning agreed to discuss it with the option of voting or if necessary move it to another work session. Commissioner Stephens noted that it would be beneficial for him, since he did not have the benefit of the history the others had, to see how all the scenarios provided compared to places like Jesup and Waycross. He added that the reality is, as this Commission has said, that 99% of the organizations out there have the same exact problems we have and there’s trillions of dollars in nationwide water & sewer infrastructure needs; there is nothing unique about us except that our current rates are higher than what other places supposedly are. Commissioner Copeland commented that he did not think they are higher. He added the numbers as shown in the past when we decided on this tap fee last year, it wasn’t that ours were higher, ours were pretty much in line with those in the communities near us, some higher and some lower. Commissioner Harvey noted that was true, however those areas might not be looking at future development like we are, and the development coming to our area that’s the only thing. He added that even though our rates are where they are, they may have been satisfied with where theirs are. So, taking a look at that it gives us an unfair advantage now because we are trying to bring investment into our area, and there are people looking at us, but maybe not so much at St. Mary’s, Jesup or some of the other places as well. Mr. Junkin commented that our economic model is a harder sell just because we are a lower density community. Commissioner Harvey agreed that we do not have that many ratepayers on our system. Commissioner Turnipseed mentioned that the fees are higher than the average, and are on the high side. Commissioner Harvey recalled that when the rates were last changed that nobody came forth at the town hall meetings to complain about the increases to be made.
Charlie Dorminy commented that before we are able to make any changes to the variable rates, we do have a process to follow, so we couldn’t vote on them at the next meeting, if it’s the variable rates. If it is a variable rate, we have to advertise with a process, and noted that he has looked at that previously. He clarified that the language says that, “…if there is a change in the variable rates,” and this is a fee not a rate. Commissioner Adams questioned if it would be a change in the rate if you changed it to gallons instead of REUs the way we bill them?
Chairman Elliott confirmed that the next meeting would be on February 1st. Commissioner Adams suggested starting the meeting at 1:00 to allow more time. Mr. Junkin committed to meet with Mr. Dorminy to look at which of the rate structures that were put together in the previous presentation that would work within the confines of the current situation without having to go through a long drawn out process. Andrew Burroughs confirmed that he would send the Commissioners as much information as he can by the next Thursday so they will have time to review all of this information, and that if they needed more to let him know and he would provide that as well. Commissioner Stephens asked if it is possible to include what the rates are up and down the east coast and even further inland. He noted that to provide more data points was better and included St. Mary’s on up the coast through Hilton Head, Pooler, Richmond Hill, Jesup, Waycross, Tifton and up through to Dublin. He noted wanting to know how do we compare with others. Andrew responded that he would combine that list, and if there are any areas missed, he would be happy to get those.
There was no Executive Session.
There being no additional business to bring before the Commission, Chairman Elliott adjourned the open meeting at 5:30 p.m.