City approves tax hike, new revenue bond

Published 9:21 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

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By Beth Alston


AMERICUS — The Americus city council held its third and final public hearing at Thursday’s regular monthly meeting. No one spoke for or against the tax hike from 11.32 mills to 13.12, In the city’s central business district, the rate will go to 14.62 mills.

Following the public hearing, Council member Daryl Dowdell said that while he’s not against raising the millage rate, he “dislikes putting more taxes on property owners.” He again asked “why”? Mayor Barry Blount said this goes back to August 2018 when they approved the recommendations of the salary study which necessitated a $1 million increase in the budget. “We’ve already raised the water rate,” Dowdell said, and “now property taxes.”

When the item came up on the agenda to raise the millage rate, the motion to suspend the rules and take action was made by Juanita Wilson, seconded by Lou Chase, and passed unanimously. The motion for raising the millage rate was made by Lou Chase, seconded by Charles Christmas, and passed unanimously.

On the consent agenda, the council approved the following.

  • Approved Americus becoming a Tree City U.S.A. Community.
  • Approved spending $24,420 for a bikeway implementation study for key bicycle corridors as part of a project passed by the voters of Sumter County in the 2014 SPLOST.
  • Approved a resolution accepting an APGA Mutual Aid Agreement.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing expenditure ($19,016) for the Rylander Theatre using SPLOST funds.
  • Accepted a bid of $27,582 from Sunbelt Ford to purchase a V8 long bed 4×4 (half-ton) truck for the Public Works Water and Sewer Department.
  • Accepted bid of $17,470 from Core & Main to purchase MXU and Pearl cables for the Public Works Water and Sewer Department.
  • Approved name change of Flash Foods to Circle K at 1533 S. Lee St.
  • Approved name change of Flash Foods to Circle K at 1101 Crawford St.
  • Approved transfer of property at 1031 Westside Drive to the Land Bank Authority.
  • Approved closing the 2014 CDBG matching bank account at Citizens Bank of Americus with remaining funds to be deposited into the General Fund.
  • Approved a resolution opening a 2019 CHIP bank account at Synovus bank.

On the agenda Thursday were the following items.

  • Approved establishing an ordinance to create the Keep Americus Beautiful Commission. Staff requests that the rules be suspended and action taken this month.
  • Approved an ordinance to establish the 2019 millage rate of 13.12.
  • Discussion of a revenue bond consideration. This item came following an update of Well No. 11 which is currently offline. In order to comply with EPD regulations, the city must decide what to the do with the well which was closed due to high levels of manganese and iron. They can cap the well at a cost of $1.5 million, cap the well and build a new well, or clean the well and put it online.

During the revenue bond discussion, the mayo reminded council members of the work needed on the well as other projects for the water, sewer, and stormwater departments. Several months ago, this same subject had come before the council and was defeated in a split vote. On Thursday, Blount reiterated the terms of a 20-year revenue bond at an interest rate of 2,86 percent with the total cost coming to $20,299,047. This bond issuance will pay off existing revenue bonds and leave the city with about $13 million for other projects. After much discussion, Lou Chase moved to approve and was seconded by Charles Christmas. Chase, Christmas, Kelvin Pless, Nelson Brown, and Daryl Dowdell voted yes. Juanita voted no.

Local citizen Clifford Morgan addressed the mayor and council about changing the policies for citizens speaking during council meetings. Morgan wants citizens to be able “to speak freely during meetings to give input.” The mayor reminded Morgan that he can sign up to speak on an agenda item but Morgan wanted to know what he is required to do so. “You sign up and we recognize you,” the mayor said. “That defeats the purpose,” Morgan said, adding that the floor should be open for citizen comment all the time about things that are not on the agenda. “They expect to come here and give input,” he said of citizens.

Morgan went to ask the mayor and council to consider changing the policy. “Citizens feel like you’re distancing yourselves from us. You have rules and regulations but you have to be a little bit lenient.”

Council member Nelson Brown said he will bring the matter back up next month, to consider not requiring three council members to approve a speaker.

In other business, the mayor presented two proclamations: National Clean Up Day and National Surgical Technologist Week.