Hillsboro Approves Agreement with Woodard & Curran
On Tuesday evening, the Hillsboro City Council approved an operations and maintenance agreement with the firm Woodard and Curran for the management of water services at the city's water treatment plant.
The council approved the agreement, 3-2, with Mayor Brian Sullivan making the deciding vote. Commissioners Michael Murphy and Daniel Robbins voted for the agreement with Don Downs and Katie Duncan voting against. The agreement was approved in front of a packed council chambers.
Prior to discussing the matter, three Hillsboro citizens spoke out against the agreement during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Bruce Holcomb said that he was a firm believer in keeping as much work and as many Hillsboro city employees in town as possible. He also said that he is concerned about what will happen with employee pensions after moving to a new company. He noted that he once served on the council and was faced with a similar dilemma during his time as an official.
Pastor James Hayes stated that he hoped the council had put a lot of thought into the decision and that they weren't just flying by the seat of their pants.
One water treatment plant employee who spoke said that Woodard and Curran may be the greatest company in the world to work for, but there's no sense of community pride when it comes to working for that company. He pleaded for the council to vote against the agreement for the sake of community pride.
After opening up the discussion on the actual motion, Mayor Sullivan said that all water treatment plant employees will be offered positions with the new company at similar wages. He said the matter at hand had been studied for a long time rather than talked about in short order.
Woodard and Curran Regional Manager Marc Thomas was in attendance to address the concerns both council members and city employees had.
"Our business is people," he said, "and we look forward to showing they are a good firm."
One of the biggest concerns appeared to be with an article in the agreement dealing with employees status if the agreement is terminated by a future council. Downs asked if a new council came in and terminated the agreement, would the city employees who became employed by Woodard and Curran still have jobs? Thomas said they would be happy to sit down and work out any language in the agreement with city officials. He said that the way the article was worded was their standard contract.
Duncan asked what constituted an emergency situation to spend $10,000, when city policy is that any amount over $5,000 has to be approved. Thomas answered that the company would still bring all costs exceeding the $5,000 limit before the council for approval before spending that much money.
Prior to voting, Downs reiterated that he is not a politician and that he will not try to persuade his fellow council members minds on a vote. Murphy spoke to the amount of time that was spent on the matter, stating that the decision may seem like a sledge hammer to the public, but a lot of thought was put into the agreement.
Despite the uncertainty and possible tension felt in the room, members of the council and those from the public who were in attendance remained respectful in what could have been an otherwise heated meeting.
The next Hillsboro City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, at 7 p.m.