Groves council candidate questions street work, police hiring & personnel clarification

Published 12:18 am Friday, September 6, 2019

Barbara Edington, who is running for the Ward 3 Groves city council seat against incumbent Sindey Badon Jr., asked several questions for clarification on the proposed 2019-20 city budget at the second of two public hearings on Thursday.

Edington asked how many current city workers are first-tier entry-level employees. City Manager D. E. Sosa proposed in the budget that the city scrap the first tier and boost employees and new hires into the next tier to offer more competitive pay. Currently Sosa says there are approximately seven first tier employees.

The city has also budgeted an additional $150,000 for the purchase of new meters. Edington asked how many the city expects to buy.

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“It kind of depends on what kind of meter we’re buying,” Finance Director Lamar Ozley said. “Assuming they’re all residential, that’ll probably get us 400-ish.”

Sosa said city batteries are wearing out and Groves is trying to get them replaced.

“I think we’re doing OK, and that’s why we’re trying to hit that really hard because everybody wants to get an accurate bill,” he added.

Edington also noted the city plans to do work on streets year-round, as opposed to the usual May-September timeframe. Sosa clarified that while much street work needs to be done in hot weather, the city plans to work on curbs year-round.

$757,000 has been budgeted for street repairs, though Sosa said they aren’t sure yet which streets will be worked on first.

“We’ll have public works working on the next set of streets,” he said. “We go by triage. We look at what kind of conditions we have.”

Edington noted the city was looking to hire three new employees and three new police officers. Sosa responded the city has already filled the city employee positions, and City Marshal Normal Reynolds Jr. said police are recruiting for the officers.

“On our website is our application, our personal history statement,” Reynolds said. “I’m in the process of testing five right now who are in the sheriff’s department academy. We teach at the academy, we interact with these people. We recruit from there, and we recruit from the LIT academy, as well.”

Edington said she thinks everyone is pretty happy with the department.

“But my concern is, there’s been some crime hot spots and I don’t know if we have enough people on the street,” she said.

The proposed budget includes a 0.16-cent property tax increase, a 10-cent water and sewer rate increase and a 3-percent cost of living adjustment for city employees. Sosa says residents could expect a $1.60 tax increase per $100,000 of property value per year, and an increase in water and sewer bills of about $1 a month for an average bill.

The council will vote to approve the budget, the tax increase and spending appropriations at the next regular council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16 in order to have the budget in place for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.