GCS severs deal with Hooper Corp. to improve electric service

By Nick Blank Staff Writer
Posted 7/10/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City leaders voted 3-0 to end its contract with Hooper Corporation for electric distribution capital improvement projects.

Staffing was an issue with Hooper, according to …

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GCS severs deal with Hooper Corp. to improve electric service

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City leaders voted 3-0 to end its contract with Hooper Corporation for electric distribution capital improvement projects.

Staffing was an issue with Hooper, according to the city staff report. Hooper, awarded the contract in 2016, was supposed to embed six employees. Instead, the city noted that figure was “... continually short.” The notice of termination is 90 days for convenience. Hooper Corporation will be able to bid on future projects.

City Manager Steve Kennedy and Public Works Director Mike Null said staff sought to hire eight skilled laborers, internally bolstering existing utility staff. Null said a competitive wage and benefits would assist in attracting workers, as the city had paid workers below average in the past.

“We didn’t have anyone beating down our door,” he said.

Kennedy said it made sense for the city to work on the projects itself since most expenses were for labor and equipment.

“The salaries and the packages we can put before you will make it a little easier for us to grab some people,” Kennedy said.

Council Member Pam Lewis said Hooper earned her respect and gratitude, but the staff recommendations were made in the best interests of the city.

“I think that’s how we have to look at things and I’m inclined to agree with this [notice of termination],” Lewis said.

No stranger to power outages, the city received a $10.7 million loan last year for several capital improvements to its power system.

“It was very clear [in the staff report,] the request we’re putting before you tonight is in no way to disparage Hooper. They have added value to the operation of the system and made contributions,” Kennedy said. “Circumstances change, and I think the basis going in [Hooper Corporation’s] direction prior to my arrival was the best for the circumstances at the time.”

Hooper Corporation Project Manager Gary Shortridge thanked city officials.

“We were proud to be part of this organization,” he said. “You folks have got a challenge ahead of you.”

With Council Member Mitch Timberlake and Mayor Steven Kelley absent, council members unanimously approved the notice of termination.

In other business, the city approved rezoning for two developments 3-0 on first reading.

The council was first shown a site plan for a pair of duplexes on Houston Street. The change would rezone the property from Single-Multi Family Residential to Planned Urban Development. The .57-acre lot, drainage and the aesthetic effect on the neighborhood prompted worries from residents.

“I don’t think it would fit for the simple reason that the whole area is [zoned] R-2 for single-family units,” resident Chester Austin said.

Council members said they understood residents’ concerns and more discussion on the final zoning hearing would benefit all parties, with two council members back at the dais.

“We’ll get another bite at the apple,” council member Van Royal said.

The other proposed development was a 17-unit apartment complex on Oak Street. The city’s Planning and Zoning Board and city staff recommended approval for both projects. Both developments are led by applicant and architect Janis Fleet and property owner Wiggins Investment Co. of North Florida.

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