West Point council meets for first time in 2020

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 11, 2020

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WEST POINT — The West Point City Council held a work session Thursday afternoon to preview topics that will be acted on Monday during the first meeting of the year. City Manager Ed Moon discussed each item listed on Monday’s agenda. They include such first-of-the-year actions as board and committee appointments, council meeting dates and times and the appointment of city officers.

On Monday, Jerry Ledbetter, Sandra Thornton and Deedee Williams will be sworn into terms as council members. They were the winners in the 2019 municipal election. City officers to be appointed Monday include the mayor pro tem, the city attorney and the municipal court staff.

In most cases with the appointments, the person who has been serving and wants to stay on will be appointed to a new term.

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“Unless they want to leave, incumbents usually return,” said Moon. “It can be a challenge to find people who have not served before.”

2019 appointments who are up for reappointment include Roger Bailey to the Board of Adjustments, Debra Robertson and Larry Duncan to the Hawkes Library board, Trudye Johnson and Kevin Patrick to the Municipal Planning board, Larry Duncan and Joe Thompson to the West Point Historic Commission, Henry Hutchinson to the Troup County Parks and Recreation Commission, Josh Moon to the West Point Development Authority and Diane Davidson to the Troup County Board of Elections. Some of the appointments become effective in March, some in October and some in December.

The current city officers include Wesley Leonard, municipal court judge; Benjamin Wilcox, judge pro tem; Mark Carlton, prosecuting attorney; Jeffery M. Todd, assistant prosecuting attorney; Jeffery M. Todd, city attorney and Luther Jones, public defender.

Council Member Sandra Thornton suggested posting these positions when they come up for reappointment.

“If the council wants us to advertise it, I don’t see why we don’t,” said Mayor Steve Tramell.

Moon said that could be done but the main thing is to have capable people who are willing to serve.

The council had some discussion of the Georgia Municipal Employee Benefit System (GMEBS) and how it affects West Point city workers. A restated defined benefits retirement plan is on Monday’s agenda. Todd said there are no significant changes in the plan being considered. He said that participating local governments must approve the state plan each year. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has given its approval to the plan. The cities of LaGrange and Hogansville have approved their 2020 participation as well.

“It looks routine to me,” Todd said. “There is one retirement plan for city employees, and it’s GMEBS.”

One hitch is that no one can draw from it while they are still employed by a local government.

Council Member Deedee Williams asked if council members could draw from it while serving on a small salary. Todd said he would check on that.

The council 0n Monday will be acting on a resolution to update its water conservation plan. Sammy Inman of the water department said this would need to be done to increase the city’s withdrawal permit.

Also on the agenda will be the possibility of hiring a service delivery strategy update consultant.

“We need a consultant on this,” Moon said. “We don’t have the expertise to do this.”

Hogansville has already approved a consultant to act for them. We need a full partner before we enter into negotiations with the county.”

“It seems like our strategy is to hire more and more consultants,” Williams said.

The issue here is that Troup County’s service delivery strategy will be renegotiated in 2020. Moon said that it’s important to understand all the complexities of public services being offered, taxes being paid and the agreements the city and county are operating under. Basically, what it comes down to is whether or not the city is getting its fair share.

The city is facing a sludge disposal problem.

Moon said that landfill costs for sludge disposal had gone up an estimated 130 percent and that he was looking at a less costly option in Alabama. It would require a lease agreement but could reduce the city’s costs an estimated 50 percent.

Landfill costs in Georgia are going up due to new environmental rules. Burying sludge in a landfill tends to increase methane levels underground, which is not good in the long-term for the environment. Depositing the sludge on leased property is a much cheaper option. Williams asked if this was the city’s best option. Inman told her there were several other options but all of them would be very expensive.

“We will always try to make the best cost-effective recommendations,” Moon said.

Council Member Joe Downs asked if this had anything to do with coal waste, something known for its potential toxicity.

Moon told him it didn’t.

According to a proposed agreement, the city will least a large tract of land at no cost. They will pay the property owner a free per truckload of biosolids hauled to the site. The fee is yet to be determined, pending an engineering study.

“However, in conversation with the property owner, staff and engineers, we anticipate at least a 50 percent reduction in cost,” Moon said. “There are no capital costs associated with this project.”

The council held an executive session following the work session to discuss property but did not make a decision.