The Hopkinsville City Council met in person on Tuesday night for its first meeting of April to discuss budget amendments, loans, committees and HWEA water rates.
Opening up the meeting, councilmember Travis Martin welcomed Associate Pastor, Director of Missions and Outreach, Pastoral Care and Communications Will Campbell of First United Methodist Church in Hopkinsville to lead the meeting’s invocation.
In past meetings, councilmembers take turns leading the invocation and the adjournment.
The council and mayor voted to move the closed session after the approval of minutes.
Hopkinsville Mayor Wendell Lynch said no action was taken during the closed session.
The council heard the first reading of Ordinance 07-2021, HWEA Waste Water Rates.
Councilmember Chuck Crabtree said that the only problem with this ordinance was that HWEA needed $3 million for the funding of the loan for their proposed project mentioned in the last Committee of the Whole meeting.
Crabtree explained that after looking at the ordinance until he was “blue in the face” and still counted that the council would need $4.9 million to pay off the $3 million loan with a 0.7% interest rate.
Councilmember Terry Parker also called HWEA accountant Mellisa Sellers Spurr to answer the council’s questions regarding the ordinance and rate hikes.
She explained that with the new rate, HWEA and council is not just covering the bond amount but also the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority requirement of $2.25 million that has to stay in the account for the life of the project, which is 38 years.
“We have to stay in our same financial positions that we are in now to make sure we can meet this $1.3 with addition of paying that amortization of that loan,” Spurr said.
She also explained that the new rate only covers 50% of the depreciation costs which HWEA will fund the rest of.
Adding comments to this discussion, Councilmember Tom Johnson stated that even with the rate increase, the customers of HWEA will still be receiving world-class water treatment plants while still paying 30% less than other residents of the state.
HWEA CEO Derrick Watson elaborated on the need for the rate increase to cover the KIA loan requirements.
“It’s really for the security of the loan,” Watson said.
He also added that KIA requires a 1.3% depreciation rate that must be set aside or else KIA will not award the loan.
Watson explained the reason the rates for this reason are so low is because of the small projects HWEA continues to take on using SRS low-interest loans.
In all of the projects HWEA has taken on, Watson said that the 0.7% interest loan was the lowest they have ever been offered.
Watson added that the previous projects taken on have helped to secure low rates for residents and that this project will continue to keep rates low in the future when other water authority rates will drastically increase.
He also mentioned that the current lowest, minimum water bill for HWEA customers is $13 a month.
The ordinance was passed 9-1 with Crabtree voting no.
The council also heard another budget amendment where $50,000 was pulled from the General Fund to the Municipal Road Fund. The ordinance passed unanimously.
In the executive orders section of the meeting, Lynch brought an order establishing a Non-Partisan Citizens Committee that will grant an opportunity to express their views on the issue/question of changing the city’s form of electos to non-partisan or keeping elections as partisan.
Councilmember Steve Keel discussed his concern about not having a timeline for the committee.
“An open ended committee I believe may not get the results we’re looking for and I think with some guidance from your office (the mayor’s office) and with this council, if we were to run into a spike in COVID or some reason they can’t get to it, we can move those goal posts,” Keel said.
West expressed that a time constraint may not result in the progress.
“I do believe in a time constraint. It’s not enough time because this is new to our community. And since it’s new to our community, it’s going to be new to these citizens.
West explained that the members of the committee need time to do proper research and come back to the council with unbiased information.
“We cannot afford to put a shortened time constraint because for one, we have to remember that we are coming out of a pandemic but yet we are still in a pandemic. With all pandemics people have been through trauma and we need to understand that,” West said.
Addressing both points made by Keel and West, Lynch asked the council to consider the possibility of after the committee is elected that the committee may come back to council with a timeline.
This motion was carried unanimously.
In other council news, Parker brought up the remaining small business funding.
Parker said to the council that there was roughly $30,000 left over in the account.
Discussing the number of applicants for the initial program and businesses who were not eligible, Parker set forth a motion to disburse the remaining money between the businesses that were eligible for the initial funding.
In light of the motion, Hopkinsville City Clerk Crissy Fletcher told the council that she can perform a later-style municipal order based on the actions taken at the meeting.
The next Hopkinsville City Council meeting will meet in person on Apr. 20 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. The meeting will also be available to watch online on the city’s Facebook page.