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Commissioners vote to increase sewer rates

The Washington County Commissioners voted to increase county sewer rates by $3.65 per month during Thursday’s board meeting.

Commissioner Jamie Booth said he spoke with Jeff Carr, the county’s sanitary engineer, who had looked at the repairs and maintenance needed within the county.

“There are a lot of things in the western part of the county that need to be repaired,” said Booth. “The county sewer is not just the Devola sewer project. It is the infrastructure that has been in place for years and years that is failing.”

He explained that over the past month, they have been dealing with a lift station that is down. The approximate cost to replace one pump and the rails is about $20,000.

“This increase is going to be between $4,000 and $5,000 a month in increased revenue to the county, but as you can see … sewer is an expensive business and our costs go up. I tried to keep it just as low as possible, but as close as we can get, that looks like what it needs to be to keep the sewer operating.”

Commission President Kevin Ritter said the rate increase shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“The previous board talked about a rate between $100 and $110 as a final landing spot,” he said. “I was surprised when our technical expert came back to us and said you only need to look at this sort of an increase at this time. Any kind of increase isn’t good news, but it’s better than it could have been.”

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A renewal contract between the county engineer’s office and the Teamsters Local Union 637 was approved Thursday by the commissioners.

County Engineer Roger Wright said it was a three year contract which provides Teamsters insurance at a discounted rate for the 32 employees of the department.

Wright said as long as having Teamsters insurance provides a savings to the county, they are able to use the less expensive alternative.

Since the engineer’s office originally signed up with Teamsters three years ago, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has also unionized with Teamsters and signed up for their health insurance.

“Since (the sheriff’s office) had a certain amount of people and we had a certain amount of people, we got discounts,” explained Wright. “We realized a savings of more than $60,000.”

The contract is effective April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2024.

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Flite Freimann, director of the Washington County Department of Job and Family Services, brought a social media policy before the commissioners for approval.

“This is something we talked about with Flite some time ago. Many of you folks are on social media and you know the pitfalls of social media,” said Ritter. “It’s important that we have something in place and we really appreciate JFS putting this together so that we’ve got something in writing.”

Freimann said as the agencies under the JFS umbrella push messages out on their social media platforms, there are contractors and vendors who do data analytics and track where the message goes, who sees it and if they like or dislike it.

“We’ve been following the commissioners’ guidance to really use social media and have something in writing for guidance,” remarked Freimann. “Then this will give us an opportunity then to evaluate it. Hopefully, if this works as anticipated, we’ll be back in six months to say hey, this has worked successfully, and it would be a model that we could share with other county agencies.”

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