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Halifax County Service Authority adopts budget

The Halifax County Service Authority Board of Directors adopted the proposed $4.7 million operating budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year during its regular monthly meeting Thursday afternoon in the conference room of the Halifax County Service Authority Operations and Administration Office.

The proposed budget calls for a 1.47 percent increase in personnel costs including mandate changes by the Virginia General Assembly, rising health insurance costs and a 2 percent cost of living raise for employees.

Operating expenditures will increase 1 percent due to the increase in repairs and the price for chemicals being affected by fuel costs.

Debt service also will increase 1.65 percent due to additional interest being paid on the VRA loan for the water plant.

According to Authority Executive Director Willie Jones, with the refunding of those loans that the rural development loan enabled, the Urban Planning Area sewer debt service will remain flat.

 A 1.55 percent increase is reflected in the total expenditure budget over last year’s budget, Jones said.

Budget revenues will increase 7.92 percent over the current year’s budget but 2.95 percent over actual year-to-date revenues received, Jones explained.

The cash budget for 2012-2013 is $300,000 greater than in 2011-2012. The increase is due to monthly set asides of cash in anticipation of large debt service payments in August, October and December totaling more than $500,000, the director said.

In other business Thursday, the board adopted the revised purchasing policy. The changes were made to the existing policy due to changes made by the General Assembly that affect purchasing practices for local governments and authorities. 

According to Jones, in some ways the policies are more relaxed as the laws increased the purchasing limits in response to increased costs for supplies and materials. 

The board approved the Halifax County Service Authority entering into open-ended non-exclusive  annual contracts with four engineering  firms to provide engineering services as needed for the authority. 

The authority advertised for firms online and received 14 responses.  After the reviewing staff interviewed eight of the firms, the authority chose to enter into agreements with Anderson & Associates, Draper Aden and Associates, Dewberry and Wiley Wilson.

“While any one of these firms could provide the bulk of services we need, we believe the authority is better served by being able to solicit proposals for specific work from multiple firms,” Jones said. “I have worked with all of these firms prior to coming to the authority and know they are capable. These were the firms the staff chose based on two days of interviews and several days of personal evaluations. They each have a special strength the authority can use.”

 The board also adopted a resolution of appreciation and congratulations to the employees of the authority who work at the Leigh Street Water Treatment Plant for their continued professional achievements in the quality of operation of the water plant. 

Board Chair Dexter Gilliam presented Mark Wilkerson, superintendent of the Leigh Street Water Treatment plant, with an award of recognition from the Virginia Department of Health for the quality of its operations earning  silver awards in 2006 and 2010 and gold awards in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

The board reviewed the revised state laws on liens that govern the ability of localities and authorities to file liens against the landlords for unpaid utility bills incurred by their tenants. 

Jones said prior to now there have been different sets of rules for localities and authorities. Jones brought two requirements in the revised laws to the board’s attention.

 The first requirement states the landlord needs to sign a form certifying the tenant has a legitimate agreement to rent the property for which they are requesting water services. 

According to Jones, the authority started requiring such proof a year and a half ago after a series of fraudulent applications were received. 

Jones said this requirement has not been very popular, but it has stopped some false applications.

The second requirement causes the authority to raise deposits for tenants to meet three to five times the average monthly bills. 

According to Jones, since the majority of the charged off accounts come from rental property, this should help recovery for past due accounts. 

Current deposits are $130 for both water and sewer, so the increase will be significant, Jones said. 

The authority will advertise these changes when they do the adjustments to the rates as part of the annual equalization actions.

The board also reviewed the final VRA loan summary. According to the summary, the authority has a true interest cost of 3.7555 percent based upon the $1,135,000 par value and a $197,852 premium.

Jones also familiarized the board with the state non-arbitrage program that provides localities with assistance in investing and accounting for bond proceeds and related funds in compliance with IRS rebate requirements.

 The board also reviewed the charge off summary from the inception of the authority through June. 

According to the summary, 770 accounts were affected and 452 accounts received  South Boston credits in accordance with the authority’s agreement  to give South Boston customers who didn’t have deposits a credit of $70 or $130. The total amount written off was $130,253.98, and the total amount of South Boston credits was $27,114.67. 

The net amount written off was $103,139.31. 

According to Arnetta Roberts, operations manager, the authority had a total billing of $13,880,191 making the percentage of uncollected accounts less than 1 percent.

  Jones also updated the board on the Maple Avenue project as well as other project activity.

According to Jones, six of 20 aeration walls have been poured at the Maple Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant, and they are continuing  formwork, re-steel, embeds and waterstop for subsequent aeration basin walls. They also are pouring the new sludge dewatering building lower slab. 

Electrical and piping under sludge dewatering building is complete, and they will resume forming center pier for clarifier three. They continue to process submittals and shop drawings. 

 In other projects, Jones said accounts that have indicated interest in the direct drafting of accounts will be added to the drafting list, then a later notice will be sent out to solicit interest. 

According to Jones, fixed assets are almost completed, and the authority will be able to comply with audit reports.

Jones gave a brief update on the South Boston Energy interconnecting lines and said a contract to construct the line will be awarded in the next few days. 

Construction should begin soon, Jones said.