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City eyes water conservation
Jim Thomas082014
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas - photo by File photo

Local water-conservation efforts and health-care premiums rising were reported at the Hinesville City Council meeting Thursday.

During Mayor Jim Thomas’ report, he told the council that he was reappointed to the state’s water council. One of the issues brought up there, he said, was the need to conserve water.

Stressing that there was no water shortage or need for drastic measures, Thomas cited the growing expense and time needed to access freshwater from the Floridan aquifer as one of the reasons to conserve water resources.

“There’s been some changes to the situation as far as the water is concerned,” Thomas said. “We are in the yellow zone, but in effect, we are actually in the red zone because we can’t increase our withdrawals from Floridan aquifer.”

The water council will conduct a five-month study for other possible sources of water and partnerships. Some of the surrounding cities and counties are less fortunate with their water resources, according to Thomas, so these areas will look to partner with Hinesville to assist in their water needs.

City Manager Billy Edwards added that the city is allocated 4 million gallons of water a day but so far only has used about 2.8 million gallons a day on average this year. Essentially, they want to start conservation efforts with a 1.2-million-gallon-a-day buffer instead of a much smaller one.

Thomas also pointed out that if the area’s water availability goes into a crisis situation, the possibility of future Base Realignment and Closure efforts by the Department of Defense could make the area less desirable and reduce the number of troops on Fort Stewart.

In Edwards’ report, he noted that the first year of having city employees’ health insurance covered by Cigna is coming to an end and that a new, significantly higherpremium rate will start July 1.

“Earlier in this policy year, we were experiencing some very positive claims experience,” he said. “Since that time, though, in February, March and April, we saw some fairly significant claims that were made. And as a result of that, as well as some other factors, … we have been presented with a 13.27 percent increase.”

With the rate going up, the total yearly premium is estimated to be $1.56 million, two-thirds of which will be paid by the city. Another reason for the increase is some policy changes required by the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Other business

• Also on the agenda was an action item to declare three older vehicles surplus and sell them at the auction Saturday at Bryant Commons.

• Two other action items had been withdrawn from the agenda. One was to announce sub-recipients and award amounts for Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That will be discussed next council meeting.

• The other was for phase 2 of Liberty Place Apartments. It was a resolution for the city to provide support to JPM Development LLC for a proposed development of affordable apartments in the city of Hinesville. It was announced that the application will be submitted sometime next year.

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