City Council in negotiations with County to take over recreation department


Swainsboro City Council held their regular monthly meeting Monday, March 6, at 6 p.m. Following invocation by Pastor Andrew Flowers of Eastwood Church of God, and the Pledge of Allegiance, Council approved the minutes from the February 13 meeting and the February 16 zoom meeting.

In old business, Council held a public hearing for the consideration of a pay increase in city council fees to $800 a month. Mayor Bennett explained that the current pay for City Council is $200 a month but the work that goes on behind the scenes is incredibly difficult and because of that City Council is justified for a pay increase. He further explained that the mayor’s salary does not change with this increase but remains the same, only City Council employees receive a raise. The vote passed 6-0.

Council considered the game room application and advertisement for Urvano Bustamante dba MI Ryena Tienda Mexicana located at 230 West Moring Street. Councilperson Stafford motioned for the approval of these minutes and Councilperson Quarterman seconded. The vote passed 5-1 with Davis voting no.

Councilperson Davis then requested to amend the agenda to change the April 3 meeting to April 10 in lieu of Spring Break. The vote passed 6-0.

Council considered the fleet management plan negotiation which is a project that the city is entertaining with Enterprise Rent-a-Car. The objective of this project is to begin leasing some of Swainsboro’s police vehicles and public works vehicles to help the city with maintenance charges because if passed, the city will not have to pay mechanical fees for the first three years after this project is set in motion. This project is for a 5-year term. After five years, the city will then sell the vehicle and receive the remaining residual that was put into the lease program which will help afford a matching fleet. The initial cost up front is to equip the police cars but at the end of the five years they will receive that money back. The vote passed 6-0.

Councilperson Sconyers addressed the council regarding Durden Hudson Funeral Directors property and Matthew Bright’s draining issues. Sconyers requested that they move this discussion to executive session and was seconded by Stafford. The vote initially passed 3-3 but Bennett broke the tie, voting to take it to executive.

Rita Faulkner addressed the council to request an update on the Robin Road Project and the report from the engineer that was hired since their last public hearing on December 12, 2022. Mayor Bennett explained that Council had Chris Morton with Clearwater Solutions visit the location and asked him to address council with his report. Faulkner then intervened and asked Council if they hired an engineer. Bennett then explained that they did but he did not know if he presented a written report. Chris Morton then shared that it was his understanding that the city paid an engineering group to obtain a price quote for the repairs and while the company presented a quote for the work, they did not present a report of the damage. Morton explained that when Clearwater visited the site there were no obstructions and everything was flowing freely, and they took photos as evidence which were presented to Council. He further explained that once they begin cutting grass there again this year, they can further assess the damage. Council then asked Morton if he has received any complaints about the issues from residents on Robin Road to which he replied, “no I have not”. Councilperson Parker addressed the issue and shared that when Turnipseed Engineering visited the site a few years ago they stated within their report of Brown Street, Robin Road, and Durden Hudson Funeral Home, that Robin Road was listed as having a natural flood plain. He also shared that within the Woods Engineering report that a comment was made that it would be beneficial for the city to purchase all the homes in the affected area. He explained to Faulkner that an email was sent to them of the report, but they’ll have to wait for the clerk to present it to Faulkner.

In new business, Council considered the advertisement for a game room license application for Maheshkumar Patel dba Mikes Food Mart located at 505 North Main Street. The vote passed 6-0.

Chris Morton with Clearwater Solutions presented three quotes for new lawnmowers. Morton explained that recently Clearwater sold some of their old equipment to Lane Brothers Auction and received $52,735. He presented three quotes for new mowers from A-Z Power Equipment for $32,985, John Deere for $31,500, and Georgia Equipment for $31,833. Council voted 6-0 to purchase the mowers from Georgia Equipment. A broken lift was also approved to advertise for sale. Morton also informed Council that two wastewater pumps were down and need replacing at a cost of $17,270. Council approved the purchase with SPLOST funds.

City Attorney, John Levis, discussed the Storm Water Management Extent of Service Policy. He advised Council to hold a public hearing to inform the citizens of the proposed policy. A public hearing will be advertised with the date the hearing is scheduled.

Levis also discussed the Blight Ordinance. He explained that the Blight Ordinance and Nuisance Ordinance were two totally different ordinances. This was the first reading, and the second reading will be discussed at the April 10 council meeting.

Mayor Bennett addressed the Council regarding the Recreation Department consolidation with Emanuel County. Bennett explained that four or five months ago Council began discussing the consolidation for the County to take over the recreation department. On Monday, March 6, Attorney Levis and Mayor Bennett met with County Administrator Guy Singletary to clarify some of the issues. Bennett stated that it cost approximately $467,000 a year to maintain the Rec for both the city and the county.

“I don’t think this is fair. We have 7,500 citizens and the county has 28,000.” said Bennett.

If the agreement is made, the city will continue to maintain the city parks at a cost of approximately

$100,000 per year. According to Bennett, all programs will remain the same or possibly grow and all employees with the rec department will remain the same. Bennett stated that the city attorney is going to “Soup-up” the contract and continue discussion regarding this agreement. The vote passed 6-0.

Matthew Bright once again addressed council regarding the road curves and ditch cleaning on Brown Street, Lincoln Street, and Gumlog Road. He was told that the city insurance denied the claim for repairs. He stated that he never received official notification that this had taken place. After much discussion Bennett told Bright he would make certain he received a copy of the insurance denial. A denial letter was sent to Bright in November to a Swainsboro address. However, Bennett’s residence is in Nunez.

In executive session;

Councilman Davis made a motion to go into negotiations regarding an agreement with Michael Bright about his property and the issues thereof. Councilman Stafford seconded. The vote was 6-0.

Councilman Davis made a motion to go into negotiations regarding an agreement with Ms. Dubberly about her property and the issues thereof. Councilman Stafford seconded. This agreement includes for the City potentially to install a 36 inch pipe with flared ends and connecting bands, and to move twenty trees back. This would give the City the right to go on her property and repair the ditch, fill it, cover it over and grass it. The vote was 6-0.

Councilman Parker made a motion for Mr. Herman Middlebrooks to be hired as City Administrator if he accepts the amended contract the City offers. The City Attorney was going to first amend the City’s contracted offer to include 10 vacation days instead of 5 annually, and for his retirement date to be moved to vesting after the first year. Other terms were also discussed in private during the executive session. Councilman Quarterman seconded. The vote was 2-4 with Councilpersons Davis, Collins, Stafford and Sconyers voting against.

Councilman Davis made a motion for the above-mentioned amended contract to be offered to Mr. Middlebrooks to hire him as City Administrator with no further negotiations. He would be hired only if he accepted those terms with no rebuttal as this was the City’s last and final offer. Councilman Parker seconded. The City Attorney will amend the contract and send to Mr. Middlebrooks the offer. The vote was 6-0.