The May meeting of the Swainsboro City Council and Mayor took place Monday, May 1, at Swainsboro City Hall. All members of council were present. Councilman D.J. Davis offered the Invocation. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, council considered items of old business beginning with a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority Loan to the City of Swainsboro that is currently out of compliance as revealed in last month's meeting by Mayor Bennett. According to the new City Administrator Herman Middlebrooks, the City is facing a June deadline on resolving the issue involving a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars in meeting the requirements of the loan. The Administrator advised council that he would be meeting with Georgia Regional Water officials in an effort to resolve the issue. Mayor Bennett added that the problem has resulted from a drop in water department revenue and the city was losing money on water with the decrease in money collected last year compared to revenue collected in previous years. In answer to Councilperson Collins concern about an $2.00 increase in the rate, Middlebrooks stated that he hoped the increase would not be two dollars on the flat rate water charge, but added it could be more. Councilman Stafford asked how we could have had such a decrease in our (water) income. Mayor Bennett answered that during Covid, more people were staying home more. According to City Hall, revenue from water sales is now down approximately $400,000. from the annual sales of water in 2019 and subsequent years. Action on the issue was postponed.
Attorney Jon Levis was at the council meeting again to advise on the Blighted Property issue. No action was necessary and the second required reading of the ordinance was heard. A change in agenda was requested by Councilman Stafford under old business and passed dealing with discussion of the Karrh Center Theater and the Community Action for Youth Gymnasium. Bennett stated he had met with the Contractor for both projects. He reported that the stalled theater project is at a point where construction can now resume. The gymnasium project is still pending planning, programing, and design work before it can continue. Options for the gym project range from continuing with improvement to the old existing gym versus the new construction of separate classroom space with an alternative gym area. A committee was formed consisting of Parker, Quarterman, Sconyers and Bennett to meet with representatives of the citizens group involved with the project to discuss the options. Bennett asked the council what they wanted to do, but lack of information concerning costs, scheduling and building codes curtailed discussion in favor of waiting for any findings or results from the newly formed committee. In new business, Mayor Bennett reported that, as earlier noted, the theater project was on budget and ready to start. Councilman Sconyers made a motion to begin the project. The motion was seconded by Stafford. Stafford, Sconyers and Davis voted in favor of the motion with Collins, Parker, and Quarterman voting against. Mayor Bennett broke the tie in favor of the motion. Next on the agenda was the continuing Robin Road area drainage issue. Giselle White-Perry, a resident of the area addressed the council with her personal observations and comments. Her plea to the council was to study the issue further with more specific information gathered pertaining to each individual property involved, as well as compiling detailed historical data on everything done by the City in an effort to eliminate any repetition or redundancy in the project going forward. Discussion involving wetland designations and liability issues was heard as well as questions from Councilperson Collins regarding grant possibilities for financial assistance from government agencies. Project Manager for Clearwater Solutions, Chris Morten, also spoke to the council regarding the problem. Mayor Bennett expressed his reluctance to move forward with spending more money on the project with no guarantee of resolution. A committee was formed by volunteer assignment consisting of Quarterman, Parker and Sconyers to conduct more inquiry into the project. No further action was taken by council.
In other new business, council hired Jacob Swingle as a new firefighter with a unanimous vote following motion by Councilman Stafford. Council also undertook consideration of the disposition of inert material (yardwaste, clippings, limbs,wood scrap, leaves and other biologics) collected from residential curbside and transported to the city inert transfer site. The City is required by EPD to dispose of these materials in an environmentally certified process. On-site grinding has been used in the past, however this cost has increased significantly. Cost estimates have been received by the City indicating a 33% increase. Mayor Bennett said he has an individual who has asked to submit a price for disposal of the material if it is delivered to his yard. No action was taken pending the submittal of a bid or bids. The next item considered by council under new business was the approval of a preliminary plat for a subdivision located on Highway 1. The item was postponed. No action was taken by council. Sunday Alcohol sales was the next matter under new business. Council considered a resolution for a referendum and authorization for Sunday Alcohol Sales in the City of Swainsboro on the November 2023 Ballot. Attorney Levis presented proposals for the referendum. Councilman Parker made a motion to approve a resolution to place the question of approval or denial on the November ballot for on-premises consumption for malt beverage, wine, and distilled spirits on Sundays at specified times. The motion for approval was made by Parker and was seconded by Quarterman. The vote was 3 in favor, 3 opposed. Mayor Bennett voted in favor. Motion passed. The final item under new business was the granting of an abandoned alley back to the property owner, Mr. Dal Durden. A motion to that effect was made by Sconyers, seconded by Stafford and unanimously passed.
The meeting concluded with a motion to enter into
Executive Session for discussion of contract issues.
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