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Caledonia to interview 7 for top water job


William Browning



Caledonia Water Superintendent Benny Coleman is planning on retiring early next year and the Board Of Aldermen is taking steps to find his replacement. 


The town received 24 applications from people vying for the post. During a Tuesday night meeting, the board whittled the applicants down to seven. Those seven will have interviews conducted at Town Hall next Wednesday. 


The cut down process was handled during an executive session that lasted a little more than an hour Tuesday night. 


Mayor Bill Lawrence said the board could not reveal who the seven applicants coming in for interviews are because it could jeopardize their current employments. 


"We can not give that information out," Lawrence said. "We could get some people fired real quick." 


Coleman has served as water superintendent for the town since 2001. He is planning on retiring in mid-January. 


The board on Tuesday also voted to terminate the employment of Deputy Marshal Ben Gill. The matter was discussed in executive session. Afterwards, Alderman Bill Darnell made the motion to terminate Gill's employment, saying Gill "has not completed his continuing education training requirements as mandated by the state." 


Gill, a retired Lowndes County Sheriff's Office auxiliary officer, began working at $12 per hour for Caledonia in March 2012. 


At the end of Tuesday's board meeting, Alderman Quinn Parham told board members Caledonia has not given town employees pay raises in two years. 


"I was wondering what the board's feelings on that might be, in light of the fact that we are likely going to get a rate increase," he said. 


Last week, Brandon Presley, the public service commissioner for Mississippi's northern district, signed an order allowing Caledonia to change the rate at which it charges its roughly 2,000 customers for water.  


Under the proposed new rate, customers who draw water from the town will pay $7.25 per month for each 1,000 gallons of water used. The minimum fee will be $7.25 regardless of how much water is used up to 1,000 gallons. Fees for increments above 1,000 gallons are prorated. 


Lawrence told the board the matter of pay increase for employees should be taken up at the next board meeting. 


Parham said that if nothing else, town employees should receive a "cost of living increase."  


"I personally think everybody ought to at least get that," Lawrence responded. 


Parham said in the past "we've just kind of been taboo about it. I think we shouldn't shy away from it." 


Lawrence said the water department has been in limbo the past several years while trying to nail down how to pay for the $3.2 million water system upgrade the town undertook in 2009. The proposed rate increase is engineered to help pay for the upgrade, which the state health department required. 


"Our employees shouldn't have to suffer because we can't do our job," Parham said.


William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.



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