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City discusses renovations, security, more

By BETH ALSTON
beth.alston@americustimesrecorder.com
www.americustimesrecorder.com

AMERICUS — The Americus Mayor and City Council met Thursday to set the agenda for its regular monthly meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 at the Russell Thomas Jr. Public Safety Building. The meeting is open to the public.
The following items will be on the agenda.
• Consider the second and final reading of an ordinance to establish the 2015 millage rate. The rate remains the same as the 2014 rate (10.32 mills).
• Consider approving the bid from Payne’s Roofing to redo a portion of the roof of the Rylander Theatre that overlooks Lamar Street in the amount of $13,500.
• Consider for a first reading the adoption of the 2015 budget for Revolving Loan Fund and Program Income for the City of Americus. Diadra Powell, city finance director, has asked that the rules be suspended so the matter can be voted on immediately.
• Consider improvements to the East Church Street train depot at a cost of $38,250. Josh Ruth, city director of planning and inspection, said the work would include a new ADA strip. Mayor Barry Blount said once the Jackson Street depot is built, SAM railroad will no longer stop at the Church Street depot. Roth said SAM will use the Church Street depot maybe once a month, for school groups that want to visit Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village. The funds for the work will come from SPLOST revenues.
Council member Lou Chase asked if it is “prudent to spend on repairs when we’re gonna move the whole thing to Jackson Street?”
Blount suggested they table the matter until the spring. City Manager Steve Kennedy suggested gathering data on how much the Church Street depot is used, frequency of school trips and revenues associated, and discuss again in October.
Council member Juanita Wilson said, “Even if we don’t spend on the depot, we need to do something to keep up the property. We don’t want to see another blighted area. We don’t need another bad spot.” Chase said the City will keep the grass mowed.
• Roth also briefed the group on the safety improvements project at the City Finance building. He has put out an RFQ for work that includes a new wall and replacement of some windows and doors for security reasons.
Kennedy commented that the work has to be done relative to working conditions for some of the employees and risk assessment.
“If the insurance company visited, they probably wouldn’t cover it because of access. It’s embarrassing, with light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. It doesn’t present a professional image … It’s essential that this move forward. It’s important that we protect our employees and our facilities. I recommend stop band-aiding things and start fixing things. We can save money that way.”
Blount said, “I think this is something we can do.” The cost will come from SPLOST revenues.
• Purchase of property from CSX for the South Jackson Street train depot. Roth said it has been “an extremely long and excruciating process,” but they’re close to ending it. He said it was first thought that Georgia DOT owned the property, but it was later ascertained that CSX owns it. “Their trains might move quick, but their legal department doesn’t,” he said. The cost of the approximate one-acre plot is $7,200, and will come from SPLOST.
• Roth also reported that the Americus-Sumter County Land Bank Authority needs start-up funds. He said the county says it will give $5,000 if it is matched by the city. This will cover attorney’s fees for incorporation, to open bank accounts, etc. Blount reminded Roth that they have budgeted $25,000 for the Land Bank Authority in next year’s budget. Kennedy recommended they vote on the matter Thursday.
• Consider approving an alcoholic beverage license for Circle K Store, 1204 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., for beer and wine off-premise.
• Consider approving an alcoholic beverage license for Bittersweet Books & Coffee, 111 E. Forsyth St. for beer and wine on-premise. Council member Chase expressed concern because the City “still hasn’t nailed down the ordinance for on-premises. We thought we had something that worked.” She said Kennedy had asked that they hold off on the ordinance until careful study had been completed. Chase was concerned that the business meet the 40 percent food sales requirement.
Kennedy said the request is for special events such as hosting a meeting or a group, but they will still have to meet the 40 percent rule.
• Consider accepting a JAG grant in the amount of $18,874, which will go the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. These grants are rotated between the sheriff’s office and Americus Police Department.
In his report to mayor and council, Kennedy said the package store fees for alcohol licenses had been doubled from $250 to  $500. He said the city should also consider raising the alcohol license fees for convenience stores and grocery stores because of the increased revenues that will mean.
He said he is ready to get bids from an engineering firm to help the city with roadway design projects when they repave streets. He said he hopes to get someone at an hourly rate. He seeks permission to negotiate with two firms. “We need to do things right so we won’t have to go back and revisit,” he said.