The Americus City Council agenda setting meeting on June 12 was packed with business involving all City departments. In the nearly two-hour meeting, the mayor and council discussed and voted on several items become entering into executive session to consider various appointments.
As the meeting began, each department head introduced themselves to Mayor Barry Blount’s Honorary Council member Tim Lewis. Following those introductions, Craig Walker was given the opportunity to speak to the mayor and council to get a better understanding of how he should submit letters of concern at meetings.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Daymond Hughes was then called on to address the mayor and council about buzzard problems on Mayo Street. Hughes said that he had received three calls in the last few months regarding a buzzard problem in the area, and he explained that there are three options for dealing with buzzard roosts. There is harassment (noise), to hang an effigy (dead vulture) or lethal control.
Several members of the audience then interjected stories of buzzards on their street, and Council member Juanita Wilson also said that there were nearly 200 vultures on Mayo Street that are destroying property in a neighborhood with an aging population.
Council member Nelson Brown suggested that the solution should be an organized collaboration between Hughes, the police department and the fire department. Blount agreed with that idea, and asked Hughes if he would set up a time to meet police Maj. Herman Lamar and fire Chief Allen Erkhart to generate a plan of action.
The meeting then moved into the committee reports, and the first committee was public safety and Council member Walton Grant.
Grant called on Lamar to update Council on public safety, and Lamar started by recommending Council denying an Alcoholic Beverage License for JD's located at 124 Bay St., for the sale of beer, wine and liquor on premises due to the application being incomplete. Lamar said there were several applicant and application issues including omitted information, an issue with the residency, the ownership of property and an issue with the criminal arrest record.
For the second item on the agenda, Lamar asked Council to consider a bid from Wade Ford, after reviewing options one and two on their handout, to purchase five new police Interceptor vehicles for the Americus Police Department for $135,980. According to Lamar, these vehicles that are on the lot include extra equipment worth more than $600 that they would receive for a $431 cost. Lamar said these are turn-key vehicles that will include everything except the striping, which he estimated at approximately $500 each.
The Community Development Committee was next, and Council member Carla Cook asked Ben Andrews to update the Council. Andrew’s updates included:
• 1,800 trips on transit, bringing in a revenue of approximately $3,300 for the month.
• The Historic Preservation Commission approved three items including; improving part of the metal roofing at 126 E. College St., removing a dead tree at 211 S. Lee St., and for Monroe’s Hot Dogs to put a new awning on and paint its building at 318 W. Lamar St.
• Submitting a PlanFirst application to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) last month, which would allow the City to apply for certain grants every year rather than every other year.
• Hiring Eli Tullis to fill the vacant van driver position, moving from part time to full time and opening up a part-time position.
Wilson then had an item under the Finance Committee’s update. That item was to consider an additional project for monies from the 1981 Small Cities Grant Program Funds.
The Council originally had $50,000 dedicated to the Carl Vinson Strategic Planning/Renaissance Program. The agreement read that the City was only responsible for $32,500, leaving $17,500 available for a different project. Blount proposed that the additional monies be earmarked for the Americus-Sumter County Payroll Development Authority (PDA) for additional facade improvements downtown.
“If we are going ask people to start fixing up their buildings, and doing some things downtown, I think we need to have some money that’s available to assist in that,” Blount said.
The 50-50 match encourages owners to fix their buildings up, according to Cook. Wilson made a motion, which was seconded by Council member Shirley Green Reese and passed unanimously.
The next committee to report was the Public Works Committee, and after being called on by Cook, Public Works director Sammie Deason began to explain his first item.
Deason asked that Council consider approving MGAG Portfolio for 2015-2020, allowing the City to secure natural gas for the next five years at a fair market price. The Council agreed and consented.
The next item was to consider awarding the paving bids to low bidder, Houston Asphalt, to pave Tripp Street, Pineview Place and Furlow Street at a total cost of $197,100. The other bid, Sumter Asphalt, came in at $210,000 for the three streets.
At this point, Blount asked with a laugh if Deason wanted to talk about the island at the end of Tripp Street. Blount then explained that if you were going down Felder Street towards Walmart, you would have to go all the way to GSW Drive and turn around if you wanted to turn left onto Tripp Street because of that island.
“I told Sammie that since we were fixing to pave Tripp Street, lets make it where we can easily turn onto Tripp off of Felder,” Blount said. “He came up with a plan and I told him to wait until we talked to Council this afternoon, but he had already gotten his crew mobilized and they had already dug it up before we could stop him.”
Blount said that he thought it was a great idea, and this is a great time to do it since it is about to be repaved. Blount also said the estimate for all three streets being paved came in under budget of what Deason estimated Tripp Street alone to be, approximately $203,000.
The next item on the agenda was the approval of the purchase of water meters for stock items for the Water Department. This amount on each invoice, $24,000 and $33,000, was alarming for some members of the Council prior to Deason’s explanation.
“Normally we don’t bring these before the Council, but these two are right at $58,000 or $60,000, so we felt like we needed to bring it before the Council,” he said. “This is for 153 3/4-inch water meters. When Sensus was moving to a new office, we couldn’t get any water meters at all, so we put this order in, but we couldn’t get any. Finally when we got some we had just ordered extra. Before these meters came in we were actually putting old meters back in just to have water meters for the customers.”
Deason said 50 of the water meters would be going to Creekview Commons, and that the rest would be their stock for this year. He also said hey normally order 25-30 meters at a time, but they waited from January to April to get these meters, which resulted in receiving the large amount all at once.
The next item on the agenda was to consider approving the recommendation for Walk of Fame recognition. The Walk of Fame committee members recently met and submitted their five recommendations for the Council to consider. The five candidates — Edgar Alan Anderson, Dr. John Howard Robinson III, the Rev. Robert L. Freeman Sr., the Rev. Elijah Smith Sr. and Jimmy Skipper — were each briefly discussed for their contributions to the community.
Council member Brown was then asked to give an update for the Administration Committee, and he called on CAO Laura Lee Bernstein for the first item on the agenda. Bernstein asked the Council to consider approving the memorandum of understanding for the Sumter County Archway Partnership for one year in the amount of $10,000. Following a motion by Brown and a second by Wilson, the approval passed unanimously.
The second item brought forth by Bernstein was to consider approving a Cooperation Agreement with the Housing Authority for payment in Lieu of Taxes—- New Cooperation Agreement for Southland Heights. This item, which was tabled from last month’s meeting, included a revised agreement with language added that read, “The Local Authority or the Municipality may at its discretion request that this Agreement be amended at any time with respect to the amount of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes outlined in section 3(b). The amount stated in section 3(b) shall be reviewed at least every five years to determine the appropriateness of the amount of Payment in Lieu of Taxes.”
The third item was a business and event update, which Bernstein said would be given at the next meeting, and the fourth item was to consider a first reading ordinance amendment related to adding mandatory recycling for City citizens.
“This would also include the fee of $2,” Bernstein said. “This is the first reading of that ordinance amendment.”
Skipper then passed around the proposed ordinance. Following a brief discussion, Skipper said the first reading of the ordinance will take place at the next meeting, which was to be held June 19.
The Planning and Inspections Committee briefing then began as Shirley Green Reese called on Building and Code director Josh Roth to deliver his monthly update.
“We were a little low on our permits, but that’s because we didn’t have them all the way through the month. They were through the 22nd of the month so there were only 60, but we actually had about 90 or 95. One of our employees who puts them in was on vacation, but that’s how many we really had,” Roth said,
“The dollar figure, $3,893, was $306,657 worth of work for the dollar value of those permits,” he added.
Roth also said the fire marshal issued 10 certificates of occupancy, and he that the Planning and Inspection Department had received their aerial photos from the non-growing season so that they can see more detail in higher resolution.
During the code enforcement portion of his update, Roth stressed that grass is the most common cause of code violations, and he encouraged citizens to cut their grass on a regular basis. Roth also added that one employee resigned to move to a different state, and he has received some plans for a new development between Tripp Street and Forsyth and Lamar, for a type of quick-service restaurant.
“It is in the development stages so there is nothing 100 percent concrete with the developer, but we just wanted to make you guys aware that that is something that is in the early stages,” Roth said.
The second item on the agenda for the Planning and Inspection update was dealing with the architectural firm for the public safety building renovation/expansion project. The City hired IPG to do the design work on this project, with architect Jim Ingram. Ingram was the founder of IPG, and he sold his portion of the business.
Ingram is leaving IPG and opening up a new company called Studio 8 Design. Ingram asked the City to assign the contract that was with IPG to Studio 8. The contract was already signed by both parties, and it did not affect anything other than the name on the contract. Blount asked that Skipper look over the contract, and the meeting moved ahead.
Roth then asked Council to review the contract for the painting of the Municipal Building. The 2013-budgeted item carry-over received two bids, one for $11,000 and one for $30,000. The contractor, William Hoston, said that it would probably take him two weeks to complete the project, according to Roth, but they made it 30 days just to help him. Blount asked that Roth call his references, because of the large difference between the two bids.
Brown then mentioned that some of the inmates at the Sumter County Correctional Institute are professional carpenters and painters. He suggested that the City might be able to save a lot of money by using them, and he said, “You can’t get a painter that can paint any better than they do.”
Deason agreed to check into that possibility as well.
The final item for Planning and Inspection was regarding the City’s GIS website, and it was arguably the most important.
“About 30 days ago we were told that our current provider for our website with the GIS was no longer going to service it and that they had sold their business and they were going to drop this part because it doesn’t make enough money for them,” Roth explained. “That put us in a bad spot because in 30 more days we’re going to lose that website through its current provider.”
Roth said they had been scrambling, and that they had already had a meeting with three vendors. He said that one vendor was going to be a regression from what they have now, and another was going to be a progression with extra details, and the final one was where they wanted to be five years from now, not 30 days.
The consensus was to use the middle of the road choice, which costs more. Roth said that they had come up with $7,000 to go towards it, and they had asked the County to look at paying for their small portion as well, approximately $1,500. That put the Planning and Inspection Committee short by $2,750. Blount suggested that they get together between then and the next meeting to nail down a plan.
The Council then voted to go into closed session to discuss appointments, after which the meeting was adjourned.