Commission Meeting Minutes – Thursday, March 1, 2018
For your consideration please read the minutes from the Commission Meeting held on Thursday, March 1, 2018.
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Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission
1703 Gloucester Street, Brunswick, GA 31520
Thursday, March 1, 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
Chairman Elliott called the meeting to order at 2:00 PM.
Chairman Elliott provided the invocation and Commissioner Harvey led the pledge.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
Chairman Elliott opened the public comment period.
There being no citizens for public comment, Chairman Elliott closed the public comment period.
- Minutes from the February 15, 2018 Regular Commission Meeting
Commissioner Browning made a motion seconded by Commissioner Harvey to approve the minutes from the February 15, 2018 Regular Commission Meeting. Motion carried 6-1-0. (Commissioner Stephens was absent for the vote.)
- JWSC Liability and Property Insurance Renewal – Fred McGinty, McGinty-Gordon & Associates
Pam Crosby introduced Fred McGinty of McGinty-Gordon & Associates and provided the background information that this matter of Liability and Property Insurance Renewal had been discussed in the previous Commission Meeting. She noted that a change in carrier for the general liability insurance would be recommended for approval in this meeting, and that regarding the property insurance an initial 10% increase with the current carrier was quoted and then negotiated down to 5%, but there were still pending quotes to be received and considered in order to attempt the reduce the increase, so a request to approve the Executive Director to make that final decision would be made. Fred McGinty of McGinty-Gordon & Associates presented the package of information to the Commissioners and noted that the first issue was the general liability package containing the general liability, auto liability, and physical damage coverage, public official liability and employment practices liability. Mr. McGinty advised that JWSC has been with Trident Insurance since the inception of the JWSC and that over a number of times since that time proposals have been solicited from other carriers, and no one else has been able to offer a more competitive liability package than Trident until this year. He provided that a proposal had been received from Guard Insurance which is a part of the Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group, also they are rated A+ by A.M. Best Company, and they have offered a very competitive proposal both from a price standpoint and a coverage standpoint. He added that their proposal would save the JWSC $28,035 from the Trident renewal proposal. He noted that in addition the deductibles for automobile/physical damage under Guard are $1,000 compared to $2,500 for Trident, and the general liability deductible for Guard is zero where it is $10,000 for Trident. He added that both of those are significant enhancements; otherwise both policy coverage forms are very broad and are basically comparable. Mr. McGinty advised that the recommendation is to accept the Guard Insurance proposal, and did add that he is always reluctant to change carriers from one who has been loyal and a reasonably stable insurer, but the differences in the proposals this time makes it difficult not to make a change. He continued that with regard to property the current property coverage is with ACE American Insurance Company and JWSC has been covered by them for two years; it was moved to them in 2016 from Lloyd’s of London and saved the Commission $83,000. ACE increased their rates 10% last year due to claims and then proposed another 10% increase this year, so Mr. McGinty looked to other companies for proposals and ACE has since reduced their proposal down to a 5% increase. Alternative property quotes for comparable coverage and competitive pricing are still pending. He noted that the rate per dollar of coverage currently held is among the lowest he is aware of in Glynn County. Commissioner Turnipseed commented that on the liability portion it looks like the difference was in the automobile coverage, and Mr. McGinty responded that he would not look so much at the various coverages since Trident in particular historically moves their premiums around from year to year from one policy to another due to internal requirements but they are looking at what their total package is, so those comparisons could be misleading. He added that from Trident’s standpoint automobile liability is where JWSC has had claim issues in the past. Commissioner Turnipseed asked if this was just from autos or from autos and trucks, and Mr. McGinty noted it was from all motor vehicles that are licensed. Chairman Elliott commented that we had a good relationship working with Trident on some legal matters and asked Charlie Dorminy if he had worked with Guard in the past. Mr. Dorminy advised that he personally had not, but that their firm has. Chairman Elliott asked him if he knew if this company was well regarded, and Mr. Dorminy was awaiting word regarding the previous working relationship his firm had with Guard Insurance. Chairman Elliott added that legal counsel has worked very closely with Trident, and that they had done well for us. Mr. McGinty provided that he was not anxious for JWSC to leave Trident and there was no agenda either way, and noted he was supportive of either decision. Chairman Elliott noted concern of moving away from one insurance company that we have a relationship with and going to a new insurance company. Commissioner Browning commented that while he understands the concerns if the new company checks out and Mr. McGinty is able to recommend them then he was willing to make a motion.
Commissioner Browning made a motion seconded by Commissioner Harvey to move that the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission accept the proposal from Guard Insurance for BGJWSC’s various liability insurance policies for the 2018-2019 coverage period and authorize the Executive Director to accept the best and final offer for property coverage pending any additional quotes that might be more beneficial than the 5% increase currently proposed by the current provider ACE and to also verify any issues that may exist with Guard in working them if it is determined there is an issue with them prior to the March 15th renewal deadline.
Chairman Elliott asked if there was further discussion. Commissioner Stephens asked if the vote could be held until advice is received by Mr. Dorminy. Chairman Elliott agreed that the vote could be held until then and confirmed agreement with the Commission. Mr. McGinty provided that Guard is rated an A+ by A.M. Best which is the highest rating, and that as part of Berkshire Hathaway they are part of perhaps the strongest insurance company in the world, if not the U.S. for sure. Mr. Dorminy added that from his perspective, sometimes when you have a lower deductible insurance companies are more inclined to settle smaller claims at that deductible, and with Guard having a zero deductible they are going to be more engaged in defending their action because it is going to be their money. Chairman Elliott confirmed that what was being said was Guard has a better proposal because there is no deductible on a claim. Mr. Dorminy noted that it was abnormal for the premium to be lower when the deductible was lower, and Mr. McGinty agreed under normal circumstances yes, but sometimes in competitive issues such as this Guard has offered a better price and deductibles. Chairman Elliott inquired if Guard had asked for all of the JWSC liability claims history, and Mr. McGinty responded yes, they were provided with and aware of the history from the past five years. With the agreement of Commissioner Harvey, Chairman Elliott noted to wait on the vote until advice is received regarding the previous working relationship with Guard.
The formal vote was delayed until later in the meeting with the motion and second having already been made.
- Academy Creek WWTP EPD Compliance Sampling Inspection Update – M. Ryals
Mark Ryals presented an update on the Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant EPD Compliance Sampling Inspection that occurred in December 2017. He provided a copy of the resulting letter and report which he had received in late January to the Commissioners for their review. Commissioner Turnipseed briefly discussed the foaming issue with Mr. Ryals, which they had also discussed earlier in the day when the Commissioner had visited the Academy Creek Plant. Commissioner Turnipseed also suggested that a sample be taken and sent to the filter company for evaluation of the performance of the filters.
- Customer Service Call Volume Update – J. Sellers
Jay Sellers presented the Commissioners with an update on the Customer Service Call Volume. He provided a chart as a visual reference to indicate the progress of the improvement in customer calls being received. He began by giving an update on the details of the data to include that the call volume had more than doubled at the first of this year from the summer of last year and noted that calls volume had increased since the rate changes, billing changes, and payment processing changes occurring in July 2017. Mr. Sellers provided that about 16% of the total number of JWSC customers walk into the lobby each month and that the customer service staff was only able to answer calls in between these walk-in customers. He proceeded to detail the history of monthly call volume for periods since January 2014, and noted the increases in total calls, percentages being answered, and the percentages of failure rate (calls not answered). He mentioned that after the rate increase in July 2017 that call volume significantly increased to 6,371 calls per month with only 36% being answered. Mr. Sellers advised that three call center staff persons were hired and trained, and added that since hiring this staff, the 76% failure rate in July 2017 had now been reduced to a 7% failure rate in February 2018, which is expected to drop lower as the call center staff become more experienced. He also mentioned that when call volume has been high, all of the customer service representatives plus the customer service manager and the assistant customer service manager have assisted in taking care of calls which were on hold in the queue. When the call volume has been low, the potential is seen for these call center personnel to be able to assist in following up on field work that has been completed to ensure customers are satisfied with the services they have received, as well as other tasks such as doing customer surveys as needed. He continued that the three staff members had been hired as one year temporary positions from January through December 2018 without benefits or paid days off with the intention of proving that the call center accomplishes the mission of increasing the customer service satisfaction level Mr. Sellers recommended to consider within the current budgeting process to make these call center positions permanent effective July 1, 2018, if progress is supported by the subsequent reports and to extend to them all of the benefits as made available to other staff. Chairman Elliott noted that not everybody understands how we handle our after-hours calls on occasions, and asked if there could be only one phone number for customers to call after hours. Mr. Sellers advised that the number provided for after-hours calls and daytime calls is the same number. He explained how the after-hours calls are handled and that after hours, option “5” becomes available which if pressed, the call is routed directly to the on-call service which is the “638” number. He added that when someone calls the “261-7100” number and listens to the screener, the press “5” option is thirteen seconds into the call. When this option is selected, the call is routed to the on-call after-hours contracted service who will respond to the call. He noted that it has been discussed to eliminate the “638” number from the bill and online entirely so that people will only dial the “261” number. Chairman Elliott asked if the selection could be moved up the hierarchy in the after-hours calls, and Mr. Sellers noted that for calls after-hours this is the first option provided. During business hours there are options “1” through “4” prior to option “5”, and after-hours “5” is the first option provided, and the initial greeting on the call takes about thirteen seconds. Mr. Sellers mentioned that perhaps it would be better to have the after-hours message direct the caller to hold and transfer them straight to the call service. Mr. Junkin commented that there has been some internal discussion of having JWSC staff coverage for calls in the later hours, at least through the early evening hours of most days, and that if this does become a need it may be discussed in the future.
Commissioner Stephens commented that he has been pleased with the call response and services he has received for the hospital.
- Arrears Accounts and Cutoff Procedure Update – J. Sellers
Jay Sellers presented an update on the Arrears Accounts and Cutoff Procedure. He began by noting that as he mentioned at the February 1st meeting, arrears as defined for this purpose is anything over $100 that is a balance forward, i.e. a balance from the previous month which has not been paid and is forwarded to the current month’s bill is the arrears portion. He added it was important to note that the delay in getting the cutoff program going has been due to the deposit situation having been unique to the software vendor. Mr. Sellers explained that because we multiplied the deposit times the REU, he wanted to be careful that we did not have the situation where a customer who owed us $499 but had a five REU, five unit duplex, apartment or commercial business would be at risk of being disconnected for something that really wouldn’t put us at a high risk of collection amount, meaning the intent is not to disconnect anybody who owes us $100 or more, but the intent is to disconnect somebody that owes us 100 times the REU for residential or 150 times the REU for commercial, reducing our exposure to bad debt. He gave the example that a multi-unit residential building with ten units should not be disconnected unless their arrears balance is $1,000. This lowers the number of accounts at risk of being disconnected and makes the program more manageable internally since we will be dependent on the availability of staff from other divisions to actually execute the cutoffs, especially in the first month. It will require about 20 to 25 staff members collect those work orders at the first of the day in order to have the customer’s cutoff date honored. If there are going to be roughly 200 per day at worst, right now based off the total of 4,313 over 22 days in a working month average, this cannot be accomplished by the five persons working in the Meter Services Division. Mr. Sellers also noted that it is very important to us to not disconnect on Friday over the weekend, and we are not going to cutoff someone in such a way so that they have no service over a holiday. After the first month, cutoffs during each subsequent month will be taken care of by the five service meter technicians. As long as this policy is maintained then there should be a consistent cutoff once we get through the first month; there should continue to be a reduction in the number of accounts in arrears and an increase in the number of payment plans. He noted that we certainly don’t want to disconnect anyone, we would rather them get on a payment plan that is reasonable and line that payment up so that they can pay it over the course of a number of months. Mr. Sellers then provided that the breakdown of accounts in arrears by district is largely unchanged, but in the breakdown by range the bulk of the accounts in arrears are under $1,000, and many of those that are over $1,000 are septic haulers which we just put into this program last month, industrial customers, large commercial and government accounts. He noted that as of this meeting, the 1.5% late fee has not been added to the billing process yet. When added that will create an even greater incentive to pay according to the terms. Earlier in the day, the software vendor advised the options for notice of cutoffs. Mr. Sellers explained that the balance in arrears will appear in red on the bill, an indication to contact JWSC will also be in red, as well as the cutoff date. The late fee function will be turned on, but the late fee only applies to the amount in arrears, and will appear in a separate block. The bill will indicate the amount due and date to pay that amount by, and it will also show the amount due including the 1.5% late fee to be paid if after the due date. Mr. Junkin inquired if the customers who came in and arranged payment plans would be charged the late fee on the amount in arrears if they keep current with their payment plans, and Mr. Sellers advised that would be Mr. Junkin’s decision. Commissioner Browning commented about the process of how to concentrate the efforts in the cutoffs with there being over 4,000 accounts in arrears, and Mr. Sellers responded that since May they have been reviewing the accounts with arrears of $500 and above and have placed a number of those customers on payment plans already. Commissioner Browning noted that the top 19% of the accounts in arrears account for 61% of the total amount owed, and that he would suggest to concentrate the first efforts on that 19%. Mr. Sellers advised that they are doing this and that applying the late fee would also add some incentive for those customers to come in and make payment arrangements. Copeland inquired about the 400 accounts that are on payment plans and asked if they are part of the top 19%, and if they were removed from the total amount on the list what the total amount of arrears just for those not on payment plans would be. Mr. Sellers responded that they were largely a part of that 19% and noted that their initial focus for payment plans were accounts in arrears for $500 and over. He added that if those accounts on payment plans were backed out of the total, the largest reduction would be seen in that range of accounts owing $1,000 to $5,000, and a fraction of the $100 to $1,000. Commissioner Copeland asked if Mr. Sellers could advise what the total dollar amount of arrears is for the accounts not already on payment plans. Commissioner Stephens advised that he believes that the late fee of 18% APR is too high for the residential customers, for the commercial he feels different, but that if the residential customers are not able to pay their bills already the concern was the penalty making it harder to pay their balances. Mr. Sellers commented that the 22,000 customers who pay their bills as agreed are probably more concerned because they are subsidizing the debt. Commissioner Stephens added that his concern is not so much for those who are becoming in arrears as of today, but expressed strong concern for those who have come in and set up payment plans and already cannot pay their bills. Commissioner Browning added commentary regarding 18% APR late fees being added to accounts in arrears as well as $135 charge that is added when their water is cutoff, and he noted that these charges should be tracked to see if there is any indication that these fees could be working against us for future consideration as to if the fees should be kept in place. Chairman Elliott questioned if the 1.5% was stated in the Rate Resolution, and John Donaghy confirmed that it was. Mr. Junkin commented that he and Mr. Dorminy would check to see if they have the authority to change the late fee without having to do a Rate Structure Resolution change, and also check for any legal issues in case they wanted to do one rate fee for commercial and a different one for residential. Commissioner Browning added that this may look like an aggressive plan to some, but considering the 22,000 customers who do pay their bills on time this is only fair, and he noted that there are various reasons why some people choose not to pay their bills. He commented that it seems like a good plan, it should be monitored for categories where it may not be working, and tweak it in the future if necessary. Regarding the calculations Commissioner Copeland had asked for earlier, Mr. Sellers advised that the total amount on active payment plans was $372,000, with the average debt owed on a payment plan being $918. He offered to provide the range of $500 to $1,000 owed within each district for the Commission with the next report. Commissioner Harvey commented that he agreed with Commissioner Stephens that the added fees and charges would be a barrier for those in arrears to get out of the hole, and asked what happens to the customer who has been on a payment plan set up for two years and has made his payments but could not get out of the hole due to the continued added charges. Commissioner Stephens commented that he could understand the late fees being applied to the principal in arrears, but not to the amounts that customers on payment plans are trying to pay back. It was noted that the Rate Resolution would be looked at for possible changes and that the Commission could vote to make changes to it.
JWSC Liability and Property Insurance Renewal – Formal Approval Vote Continued:
Having received advice regarding the proposed liability insurance carrier Guard Insurance, Chairman Elliott asked to go back to take the vote on the recommended insurance carrier change. He provided that the attorney who had worked with Guard previously was no longer with the law firm, so they could not obtain his advice. Mr. Dorminy added that Hall Booth Smith is not currently on Guard’s panel, but that should not be a problem. Chairman Elliott confirmed that the motion and second had already been provided and asked for the vote. Motion carried at 7-0-0.
Arrears Accounts and Cutoff Procedure Update – Discussion Continued:
Chairman Elliott inquired when the cutoffs would begin, and Mr. Sellers advised that the cutoff dates would begin on the next week’s notices and added that the late fees would not apply until 30 days after the billing date for the next week’s statements. He also noted that the cutoffs would be set to be applied to the next billing cycle, but would not actually apply until we bill again. It was confirmed that the late fee will begin to calculate on the first day an account is in arrears, but once an account is on a payment plan this interest is no longer accumulated, and the payment plan is set up for the amount in arrears plus the accumulated late fees up to the date of starting the payment plan. The Rate Resolution will be amended as necessary and brought to the Commission at a future meeting for approval. Mr. Junkin also clarified that accounts which are set up on payment plans are not allowed to be paid late. If they default on a payment their services will be disconnected, and in order for services to be started back up the account will be required to be paid in its entirety. There was further discussion and clarification of the payment plans and determination of which type payment plan is offered based on the amount in arrears on the customer’s account.
Public Relations – J. Sellers
Jay Sellers presented a discussion on the matter of JWSC and public relations. He began by addressing some questions that he has been asked in order to establish some history relating to this discussion item. The first question noted related to the differences and similarities between public relations, public affairs and public education in their relative fields of marketing and advertisement, and he added they are not all the same and we do not do all of them. He continued by explaining that marketing is story telling that is used to strengthen your brand, and we may not be selling cars or houses, but we do have a product and our branding needs to be consistent for the public to trust that our message is honest and whole, it hasn’t always been. Mr. Sellers noted that our present philosophy is that we will be transparent about all things, a situation that puts us on the cover of the newspaper for triumphs and defeats, and that is lately seemingly been in unequal shares. Advertising is a single component of the marketing process; marketing is determining the messages and the visuals that we are going to be using to get our services out to the public and advertising is detailing the specific methods that are going to be used to distribute our marketing messages. He explained that the best way to distinguish the difference between advertising and marketing is to think of marketing as a pie and inside that pie are slices of advertising, market research, media planning, public relations, public pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy and community involvement, and added we do some of those things well and not so well, and some of those things we really don’t do at all. He noted that traditional public relations is about media outreach. In our case, we collaborate with the local media to get our message out to the broadest audience about our meetings and the projects that we are doing using their infrastructure and their customer base. Public relations in the digital age enables us to use our own tools such as our website, any e-mail contacts that we have, social media accounts and other digital tools to put out our message instantaneously which can have upsides and downsides plus some unintended consequences especially when there is now the expectation of 24/7 availability to respond. Mr. Sellers then addressed another question which was how are we reaching out to our customers? He provided that in December 2016 when he was appointed the agency’s first Public Information Officer he began formally creating a Public Information and Customer Relations Standard of Practice document. He added that with the Public Information Committee that met numerous times last year the direction of that document and how we were going to interface with the customer changed many times, and though this is still in development we defined our core values and how we seek to answer the following questions: How does our message enforce public health, transparency, sustainability and resiliency; how can that information be presented in such a way that it can be easily understood without a degree in finance or civil engineering; how can the information be presented in the most timely manner using the most appropriate methods; what quality of life issues can be met by the BGJWSC. Mr. Sellers continued that in the development of our plan we have spent more time and text on the what and who, than we have on the how. Traditional media such as print and radio have been considered and budgeted for but we have delayed those as we have developed our core message of communicating the value of BGJWSC to our community especially when we are using the phrase, “The BGJWSC is the lifeblood of the community.” He added you have heard a lot about that but we haven’t done any advertising, we haven’t done any marketing using that phrase, it’s not out there. As a cost effective means to get the word out succinctly and routinely we started distributing our monthly newsletter called “The Flow” to every customer along with their September 2017 billing statement, so hopefully all of you have either gotten a copy of the newsletter or have seen that. He noted that all of the stories and photos contained in the newsletter have been laid out in house with the only expense for this being $1,600 per month for the bill printer to put them in the envelopes along with the billing statement. Mr. Sellers noted as part of our communications strategy we distribute emergency service related information within minutes of the water outage or the boil water alert via text, e-mail or phone call. A continued survey indicates that many people do still get their local news from the Brunswick News, the Islander and radio, and a majority indicate that they use social media on a daily basis. Mr. Sellers then addressed the question of how are we engaging customers on social media, and provided some facts regarding the public’s use of social media such as Facebook. We go to where the people are because they can’t always come to us when they have a concern, and they are going to talk about us anyways so we might as well have a voice in the discussion. The perception of many in our community is that we are not hearing their concerns. He noted that when he sees something on social media, he brings it to the staff’s attention. Social media helps to bridge the gap. He mentioned that the Commission meetings are now provided live on Facebook and also posted on You Tube after they are over, as well as additional educational videos that will be soon uploaded to those locations. Mr. Sellers continued on to discuss the next question of is social media engagement measurable enough to prove its value. Our staff focus right now is making sure that something matters, what matters most, how can we cut the cost, if it’s not something that is measurable let’s figure out how we can measure it and make sure that we are covering the most ground with the funding that we have. But so much of what we do on social media is not formally measurable. He added that there are Facebook groups where JWSC issues are discussed in a public forum. Chairman Elliott asked if a change in the attitude has been noticed, and Mr. Sellers replied yes and noted some of the public interaction he has had on social media of which has become more positive. He provided that a common concern that is heard regards the Commission meetings being held in the middle of the day and mentioned a couple of reasons they are held at that time is that staff is available during the day without paying overtime, and members of the board may be on other boards which meet in the evening. Mr. Sellers added that the meetings being broadcasted live is giving the people a voice and that people do comment on the videos, and the participation has increased. He then addressed the question of where do we go from here, and noted that he has been reluctant to create advertising expense, even though it has been budgeted for, and commented with his limited experience he can only do so much and added that the time has come to recognize that the good work that JWSC does and the financial needs that we have can be best publicized by having a strategic communications plan that is developed by somebody or a firm that has led an organization through a crisis like what we are facing, especially our financial crisis. We need a long term plan that will define our marketing strategy for decades and give the public confidence that our team can weather any storm and not just be tossed around every time there is a wave. He has spoken with local media consultants, as well as some from Jacksonville to discuss quotes and recommendations regarding effective methods of public communication and the distribution thereof. He has also discussed running ads with local news and radio. Mr. Sellers advised that if we are serious about public participation and engagement in understanding the needs we face, now is the perfect time to get guidance from a public relations firm, and once we have a strategy in place all messages we communicate should back up that strategy. He added that it would be helpful to bring in a strategic communications partner now to ensure that we are making a worthwhile investment in communicating the correct message using the correct method every time. Commissioner Stephens commented that he thinks a good job is being done in getting word out on Facebook, and that it is great to get things out to the community and be transparent, but at the same time should be cautious in responding only to valid questions. Commissioner Harvey agreed with Commissioner Stephens, and then referred back to the question regarding board meetings being held in the middle of the day and noted that he has brought this up before with no conclusion as to why this is. He added that since customers have asked this question it should be discussed, and suggested that perhaps having one meeting per month in the evening be considered so that the public can attend. Commissioner Browning discussed Facebook communications and noted that he believes it does not provide more positive results than the services that JWSC provides and commented on customer service and the recent improvements that have been made. He added that he believes the back and forth communications on Facebook can be problematic. Commissioner Stephens commented that he does believe Facebook is a good tool to reach the younger generations, and also provided an example of how using Facebook for an inquiry regarding a boil water advisory is a good way for others to find out about the advisory. He reiterated the use of caution in responding to unnecessary comments on Facebook. Commissioner Browning noted that there are good uses for Facebook, yet he is unsure that engaging with customers there is a good idea. Chairman Elliott added that the community uses Facebook as a venue to air complaints and talk about things, and his main concern is when information discussed there is wrong and inaccurate and that we do need to participate to correct that information. He has encouraged Mr. Sellers’ efforts on Facebook to make sure that the correct information is out because the public reads the newspaper and sometimes misinterpret what was said, and then it becomes gossip. Chairman Elliott addressed the matter of having Commission meetings in the evenings and indicated he has no problem with that, however noted that JWSC has held town halls in the evenings and no one shows up to those meetings, so he is doubtful that we will be meeting the community’s needs by moving Commission meetings to the evenings, but he is willing to consider it. Regarding branding, Chairman Elliott commented that we do need to tell our story, but just telling our story and not getting things done is not going to help us, and our actions have to match our words; if we say we are doing something we need to do it. He added that JWSC has not been promoted, as well as he would like, the efforts we have had in doing the SPLOST projects which are moving right along on schedule and does not recall this being noted on social media or in the newspaper. Commissioner Turnipseed noted that he believes the message should be in the product JWSC is providing; everyone in the community gets safe drinking water every day, and every one of our treatment plants are meeting their permits. He added that JWSC has a very good staff who are all working very hard and there are very few complaints compared to the number of customers served, and he noted the community should be aware of the good things our staff does. Commissioner Adams commented that he does not believe communicating on Facebook is necessary, as JWSC does a good job and that should be noted out there, but he advised he would be very careful what was put out there. Mr. Junkin added that he does believe that JWSC should be putting out press releases on the good things that are done, recognizing exceptional employees and the exceptional things they do, but it does need to be communicated in a fashion that reaches a lot of people and there needs to be a plan and a goal in communicating the value of this utility to our community. He added that he believes that right now it would be money well spent to promote communications with the public, and that there are experienced people in the media field who can assist JWSC to getting from where we are to a more solid position in the community. Commissioner Harvey commented that he believes that the service should be what we are doing, and that the improvements in Customer Service have been done well, but that the organization does not need to be built up, it needs to service the customers. The Commission discussion continued to address customer service, accounts in arrears, advertising, social media and communications.
- R & R Capital Projects Update – T. Kline
Todd Kline presented the R & R Capital Projects Update to the Commission. He referenced the attachments and maps as provided. He noted the details and status of the various projects with construction in progress and those nearing completion, as well as projects in the engineering phase.
Construction in Progress:
Project 232 – Phase IIA and Phase III complete. Closing in on finishing Phase II construction is 90% complete. Installation along SR99 is in progress. Commissioner Browning asked about the bullet point noting the JWSC agreement to relocate water main within G-DOT right of way if required due to road widening, and asked if the pipe was already laid along this section. Mr. Kline advised it was, and gave the background history as to this pipe and the possibility of the road widening which would necessitate relocating this water main. Phase I construction is 15% complete; revisions to route and methods of installation necessary due to existing utilities; currently working with Ga Pacific and Seaboard Construction on easement acquisition; additional change orders are pending.
Project 319 – Record drawings with signatures to be received; project closeout documents received; final payment complete with $10K retainage held.
Project 421 – Mr. Kline provided photographs of the project locations and project progression with the package for the Commissioners. He noted the sanitary sewer is substantially complete with minor invert work, etc. to be done; storm system substantially complete with box and inlet adjustments, etc. to be done; water system substantially complete with the abandonment of 12” valve & section of main to be done; curb & gutter 90% complete; and roads are 95% complete. Awaiting submission of project closeout documents and Preliminary As-builts for JWSC review. A change order request has been submitted by the contractor and is under City of Brunswick and JWSC review.
Project 503 – Record drawing with signatures to be received. Project close out documents to be received.
Project 701 – Mr. Kline provided a map for visual reference of project completion. He noted the project is essentially done to include paving almost complete, and that this is the precursory project to SPLOST phase I which could not happen without this project.
Project 702 – Mr. Kline noted this is the SPLOST Phase I project and that on February 22nd a memo was released announcing to JWSC customers that there was a limited amount of North Mainland capacity once again available. Mr. Junkin advised that for those who had been waiting for capacity to be freed up in this area there was now more than enough capacity for them, but commitments cannot be made for any new large subdivisions as of yet, but more will be known in the next several weeks. Based on normal demand rates, there should be enough capacity for the next two to three years allowing time to finish up on the other portion of the SPLOST North Mainland Sewer Improvements for future capacity.
Engineering in Progress:
Project 501 – Nothing new to report.
Project 602 – Nothing new to report.
Project 702 – Mr. Kline noted that on the Phase II downstream bids are due on the gravity sewer system evaluation on March 13th. That is where there are specialized contractors, once they are chosen, who will go in and TV and profile the condition of that 30” gravity sewer, and this information has to be had to make an informed decision on how to complete the routing design for Phase II of SPLOST. He noted that on Phase III the preliminary engineering is underway and they are coordinating with Glynn County to finalize the route on Canal Road.
Project 703 – Mr. Kline noted that options are being evaluated on the gravity flow.
Project 704 – Nothing new to report.
Project 705 – Nothing new to report.
Project 804 – Mr. Kline noted that this is a City of Brunswick project of which the pre-bid meeting was held about two weeks prior and the design RFP is due March 2nd.
Project 805 – Mr. Kline noted that this is another City of Brunswick project, and the engineering design is in progress.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATE
Mr. Junkin noted that commendable progress was being made on the SPLOST project and capacity becoming available so that development can resume on the North Mainland. He noted that a couple of the Commissioners had inquired about the 2016 SPLOST projects, how they were funded and what was included in the funding, and he provided them with a copy of the SPLOST Resolution that was passed. He explained that staff members are developing a means to more securely review new developments and are working with County staff members to facilitate this. Mr. Junkin mentioned that staff is working with Raftelis Financial Consultants on affordability and the Rate Structure; a follow-up meeting is scheduled with them for the next week.
Chairman Elliott had no further update at this time.
Chairman Elliott requested a motion to adjourn the Regular Meeting to enter into Executive Session to discuss litigation, and stated that there would be no vote.
Commissioner Copeland made a motion seconded by Commissioner Harvey to adjourn the Regular Meeting to enter into Executive Session. Motion carried 7-0-0.
Return to Regular Session
Commissioner Adams made a motion seconded by Commissioner Harvey to return to the Regular Session. Motion carried 6-1-0. (Commissioner Stephens was absent for the vote.)
Chairman Elliott questioned when and under what circumstances rights vest. Mr. Dorminy gave an overview of the arguments being made by developers and how the Court has ruled in these situations.
There being no additional business to bring before the Commission, Chairman Elliott adjourned the open meeting at 5:12 p.m.