The city of Granite Shoals is devising ways to help residents suffering economically due to the coronavirus pandemic pay their water bills.
The issue was discussed during the City Council meeting April 28.
“We’re not shutting anybody’s water down,” City Manager Jeff Looney said. “If there are fees, we’re setting them aside. We’ll have criteria set up for those who need help.”
Looney hopes to present the city’s plan to work with residents on water bills during the council’s special meeting Tuesday, May 5.
For residents to receive assistance, they must present documents outlining their hardship, whether it’s related to health, unemployment, or other financial burdens, Looney said.
“If you lost your job due to the virus or relocated, paying medical bills, anything that’s reasonable for why you’re unwilling to pay (a water bill),” Looney explained. “We don’t know all the circumstances for folks. We’re all in this together. Everybody is trying to get through this.”
Looney added that fairness extends both ways.
“We may let them make a partial payment and not have any other additional fees or we may make an agreement to pay in 30 days,” he said. “But they also have to understand that, if we make an agreement, follow through. We want to do what we can, but let your ‘yes’ be a yes and your ‘no’ be a no. Be upfront and tell us. We’ll try to work with you on this.”
Also discussed at the City Council meeting April 28:
• Looney told councilors that city staff are talking with the owner of property across from the water tower about possibly purchasing the land. The city needs additional property on which to build a new 350,000-gallon water tower.
“It’s a parcel of land that looks like it’s big enough,” he said.
TRC Companies Inc., the engineering firm on the project, is examining the land to ensure it fits the city’s needs.
• City financial adviser Robert Dustin Traylor of RBC consultants told councilors that Granite Shoals is refinancing $2.85 million of existing operating debt, which will save $10,000 to 15,000 annually.
“We will structure this in a way that it’s on the same schedule with the other bonds,” he said. “It’s in the entire series of 20-year bonds.”
Looney, who asked Traylor to see if some of the existing debt could be refinanced, said the interest rate will drop from about 5 percent to near 2 percent. Some of the existing debt is from the $3 million road bond passed in 2017.
Traylor noted that some bonds have a penalty for early repayment; therefore, those bonds were not considered for refinancing.
“We’ve examined those,” he said. “With those bonds, there wouldn’t be an economic gain. Our plan is to leave those alone.”
• The council approved contracting with a third party to conduct a city employee salary survey due to the city not having a finance director. City Secretary Elaine Simpson told councilors that no one has applied for the vacant position, which has an annual salary of $65,000. The job has been open for several months.
“Everybody around here tells me you can’t pay less than $100,000 (salary),” Looney said.