The Ludowici City Council at its January meeting voted to raise sewage rates and adjust tier usage for water.
According to Mayor James Fuller, the changes are necessary to ensure the city remains eligible for Georgia Environmental Finance Authority grants and low-interest loans. The city recently applied for a low-interest loan to continue improvements to sewage ponds and infrastructure. Without the increase, Fuller said, the loan would not be approved.
“I don’t want to do this, but if we don’t, we won’t get any more GEFA grants (or loans), and we won’t be able to do the work required on our ponds,” he said.
Fuller said that according to a GEFA representative, Ludowici currently has the lowest rates of any municipality in the area, and that even after the rate increase it still will be the lowest. The increase will be modest for individual residents; larger customers, such as the prison and the nursing home, will be hit the hardest.
According to information from the city, as of March 1 the residential base rate for sewage will increase from $10 a month to $12, and the billing tier for gallons of usage will change from 5,000 gallons to 2,000 gallons. The residential water rate will remain at $17, but the usage tier for the base rate will be lowered from 5,000 to 2,000 gallons. Fuller said that for commercial customers, the base rates for water and sewage will be adjusted to $17 and $25.
The changes passed by a 2-1 vote, with Mary Hamilton and Gwen Davis voting in favor, while Councilman Mark Chesser voted against. Chesser said he opposed it because many residents in the city will be hurt by the increase.
The council also heard a request by Pierce County resident Mittie Vaughan, who wants the city to stop using the Coastal Courier as Ludowici’s legal organ and instead use her paper, the Long County Press. She said her paper has been published in the city for more than four years, and she plans to open a new Ludowici office Jan. 31. Vaughan said there is a precedent for cities to give legal-organ status to hometown papers. She also she would feel more welcome in the community if her request is granted.
The council decided it needed more information and tabled the request.
Also at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to hire/rehire its 21 full-time and four part-time employees for the city. Included in this measure was the hiring of James E. Rogers as administrator of the police department and jail. Rogers, a lifelong resident of Long County, has been acting in this capacity since T.J. Gaskin resigned as police chief. He has 27 years of experience in law enforcement, including 11 years as a detective with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, one year with the Ludowici Police Department, and the remaining time as an officer with the alcohol and tobacco tax unit for the region. Fuller said that Rogers is enrolled in training scheduled for March and June to re-establish his certification as a law-enforcement officer.
The council also approved, 2-1, a 4-percent raise for all full-time city employees, with the exception of new employees hired at the meeting. Hamilton and Davis voted in favor, while Chesser voted against the measure.
In other business the council:
• unanimously rehired Joe Kitchings as the city attorney.
• unanimously changed its personnel policy to state that all employees receive two weeks paid vacation annually and can accrue no more than 45 days of paid sick leave.
• was informed by Ludowici/Long County Fire Chief Richard Truman that his department had received 1,200 feet of new fire hose.