Longtime public servant JD Willis was sworn in to the Laurinburg City Council Tuesday night at the the city’s September agenda workshop meeting.
Willis was welcomed by Mayor Tommy Parker, who said that he expects that the council “will lean on (Willis).”
“He brings a wealth of knowledge and public service experience,” Parker said.
Willis replaces Herbert Rainer, who stepped down from his District 1 council seat at the end of August.
Also during the meeting, the board learned that the project to automate meter reading for all of the city’s electric and water clients is approximately two months behind schedule.
City Manager Ed Burchins cited “software problems” as well as some challenges in retrofitting existing meters for the delay.
“This has been a pretty difficult project,” Burchins said. “The project, overall, is going very well, however. There will just be some difficulty when you’re changing out 18,000 meters.”
Council also agreed to repay a Laurinburg man who has been overcharged for nearly two decades for a city lamp that did not actually exist on his property. While the city’s policy is only to refund three years of erroneous charges, the council agreed to go as far back as proof could be provided of mistaken overcharging in this instance.
According to Burchins, the man has been charged since at least 1995 for two lamps when only one existed on his property. The city has already refunded three years worth of charges for a total of $398. Following council’s decision, the city will pay the man about $2700 in overcharges.
“If the man paid his money for however many years, then he needs to be refunded for that entire time,” Willis said.
Burchins said that the city is currently engaged in a process of inventorying all of the street lamps and security lights attached to its system. If there are others being overcharged, it is hope that this process would uncover the errors.
-Council denied a request from the Laurinburg Housing Authority for free electricity to power a new security camera system citing issues of fairness.
Parker ceded control of the meeting to Mayor Pro Tempore Kenton Spencer so the mayor could offer his opinion on the matter that may affect his livelihood as a business owner.
Parker said that he “just can’t see giving free power away” when businesses like his are often charged for false alarms triggered by security systems on their property. Parker said that security systems owned and paid for by business owners are a deterrent to crime and help the police department.
Council agreed unanimously with Parker’s opinion, and also agreed not to assist the housing authority in the installation of the camera system, which had also been requested.
“If you give free electricity to one group, what will happen when other not-for-profits come asking for free electricity?” asked Willis.
-Upon the recommendation of the newly formed employee advisory council, council also agreed to host an employee appreciation cookout on Oct. 18. Burchins said that such a cookout would be a “good move.” The event was proposed by city employees as a means of improving morale and generating camaraderie.
-The city continues to accept applications to its human resources director position. Officials say 80 applications have been received so far. That pool will be narrowed to 8 finalists.