Council holds lengthy Monday night meeting

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by WHITLEY CLIFTON

Members of Swainsboro City Council and Mayor Greg Bennett convened for a meeting on Monday, August 15, at 6 p.m. at the city hall. The meeting was called to order and Bishop Bertha Jones gave the invocation that was followed by the pledge of allegiance. Minutes from the July 18 and July 21 meetings of City Council were presented for review. Dr. D.J. Davis requested that an amendment be made to the July 18 meeting minutes for better clarity. He then made a motion that unanimously passed to accept minutes presented from the July 21 meeting. In a second action, Dr. Davis motioned for amendments to be made as requested for the July 18 meeting. This motion also passed on a 6 – 0 vote.

Old Business

  • Council discussed 2021 and 2022 LMIG projects and unanimously voted that portions of the following six roads be repaved with LMIG funding: Thomas Street, Dawson Street, Waller Pass, Youngblood Steet, Rebecca Drive and Lakewood Drive.
  • Discussion was entertained on Dellwood Baptist Church utilizing city property at 417 Lewis Street, formerly known as the Food Basket in Swainsboro. Listed on the agenda to speak on behalf of the church was JJ Palmer, who was absent for discussion. Instead, council heard from Ida McMillan. McMillan advised that the property was approved to be given and utilized by her under prior city administration. However, there was never a deed issued to McMillan for the property. McMillan’s testimony was also backed by a letter submitted to council just minutes before the night’s meeting that came from former mayor Charles Schwabe, who advised that a deed was never issued although she had been awarded utilization of the property for missionary work. McMillan also presented water bill statements for the property that she had been paying for the last six years since being awarded use. Collins and Parker also testified that the property was indeed given to her and were both puzzled as to why a deed was not presented nor were there any records filed saying she was awarded the property. Mayor Bennett suggested advertising the property to be legally deeded to McMillan during the next 30 days and for council to return to the matter for final action to take place at an upcoming meeting, Voting to conduct business the “legal” way, Davis, Sconyers and Stafford voted to discuss the subject after the 30-day advertisement. Eric Quarterman, Collins and Parker opposed waiting since the property had already been unofficially deeded to McMillan and that the proposal needed to be honored rather than put off longer. Mayor Bennet broke the 3 – 3 tie, opting that advertisement take place for 30 days to prevent any legality setbacks.
  • Jerome Bynes addressed council with a progress update on the Veterans Recycling Community Service and discussed a lease for the property being signed. Council unanimously voted to issue a 29-day lease for continued use of the property, with Bynes returning next month to provide an update report and further action/discussion to be made.
  • Mayor Bennett requested council’s permission to enter discussions with the county for the county to take over airport expenses. This item was voted to be tabled until the next meeting of council.
  • Mayor Bennett presented a contract for BAK Builders of Statesboro and made a proposal that the company perform work at The Karrh Center Theater project. Discussion was held on decisions made during the July meeting of council, when council opted for both projects to be re-bid as a bundle project for reduced. Council was informed that BAK did not submit a formal bid for the gym project when previous bids were made. Council then passed a 6 – 0 vote that action be postponed until proposals are received for the gym project.
  • Mayor Bennett requested permission from council to send a request for quote (RFQ) for engineering services. Currently, the city’s engineering services are conducted by Turnipseed. Parker made first motion to approve the mayor’s request in seeking another engineering company to provide services for the city. Dr. Davis seconded this action and all remaining council voted accordingly.

New Business

  • Stanley Wimberly with Men Reaching Men Outreach addressed council on an upcoming event, a prayer vigil, set to take place August 20 at 1 p.m. at Swainsboro’s Boneyard Pavilion.
  • Alan Brasher addressed council regarding a road closure request on the 100 block of North Green Street from 4 until 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 6, for a community art event showcasing artwork of local high school students from Swainsboro High School and Emanuel County Institute as well as East Georgia State College students. If weather prevents these tentative plans, Brasher requested the road closure be reserved for a later date on October 13. The event will feature a block-party like vibe for judged art exhibition and a sidewalk chalk competition for high school and college students. Music entertainment is to be presented by Donald Jenkins. Council unanimously approved the street closure request on a 6-0 vote.
  • Brad McKenzie addressed council on a topic discussed during last month’s regular meeting regarding alcohol sales on Sundays being added to the ballot this upcoming election. McKenzie, along with church members and other churches opposed to this being an option, questioned if council properly researched the proposed plan before jumping so quickly to decide for this to be a voting matter. Dr. Davis motioned for the previous decision made in last month’s meeting to add this to the ballot be reconsidered and that Mayor Bennett abstain from voting on the matter. This motion was passed by council and was followed with another motion to keep all alcohol sales on Sundays off the upcoming voting ballot. With Collins serving as mayor protem and a motion on the floor for Sunday alcohol sales to not be listed on upcoming ballots, the vote passed 3 – 2.
  • Barbara Moore addressed setbacks faced at the local animal shelter that involved drainage issues at the animal shelter as well as the dog ordinance. She advised council that she had made contact with a plumbing and sewing expert and a civil engineer on an on-going issue the shelter has dealt with for years involving drainage issues. She advised that both parties have come out to the animal shelter property and examined the layout of the area several times and have offered numerous recommendations. She further informed council that the sewage/plumbing representative recently detected a 30-foot section of the sewage system connecting to the main drain has collapsed when checking drains with a scope camera. She advised that it was recommended for the old pipe to be dug up and fixed and was informed that the issue would be looked into by Chris Morton with ClearWater Solutions to correct this problem.

Moore discussed other issues faced by shelter employees that included a need for the city’s dog ordinance to be reviewed and updated to be more suitable for needs of the city and county. She advised that due to a former volunteer rescue coordinator not complying with releasing contact information to the shelter for rescue transfers, that there has been a spike seen in shelter intakes and the maximum occupancy level has been met and exceeded, leading to euthanizations as an only solution. Due to an intake limit set in place, the shelter can lose its license if numbers are too high. According to SPD Chief Ellison, the current maximum intake for the shelter is set at 40, but the facility is allowed up to 50 intakes, and the shelter has received numerous calls on dogs at large that can’t be responded to due to lack of room available for placement. Numbers were provided for shelter operations that included 21 adoptions being made since July 13, with an additional four adoptions pending as of Monday.

Moore discussed possible options to resolve this issue, which included the installment of additional kennels, paying fees to alleviate associated pressure from being maxed out, the need to hire a third staff to increase the numbers of approved maximum intakes, the need to obtain contact information for rescue assistance, revision of the city’s dog ordinance as well as implementing foster services to help clear room at the local shelter and further promoting responsible pet ownership and animal cruelty prevention. Moore was advised that possible options would be looked in to and she was requested to return to next month’s meeting for further action/discussion to be entertained.

  • Matthew Bright addressed council with property concerns at Swainsboro address 245 Brown Street. Further discussion on the matter is to be held at an upcoming meeting of council.
  • Council heard concerns from Randall Snellgrove regarding streetlights and limbs hanging over roadways. Snellgrove advised council of making a complaint of a streetlight being out approximately six months ago to the city and further stated that he was referred to speak to the power company, who in turn, refered Snellgrove back to the city, advising that the problem is one the city would have to fix. Snellgrove stressed that this should not be the responsibility of citizens, but rather the city. Mayor Bennett agreed and suggested that council approve that all reported issues pertaining to street light issues be reported to the city for the city to resolve rather than its citizens. This vote passed 6 – 0. Council also unanimously passed a vote to appoint a tree board with five members, with Snellgrove being selected as one of the five to serve on the board. City Attorney Jon Levis suggested the city do two things: update the city’s tree ordinance and list names for potential board members and return at the next meeting to set board reams. A motion was then made to discuss the four other potential candidates at the next meeting.
  • Police Chief Ellison presented a request to hire Monique Hammell as an animal control officer. This request passed unanimously on a 6 – 0 vote.
  • Mayor Bennett proposed giving the old DOT building on Kite Highway to the Joint Development Authority/Chamber of Commerce. Discussion included stipulations being enforced by the deed that prevents the city from utilizing the location. A motion to deed the property over to the Joint Development Authority/Chamber of Commerce and include the city receives writer’s first refusal to obtain property back (subject to DOT provisions) was made and tied 3 – 3. Mayor Bennet cast the final vote to approve the property be deeded to the Joint Development Authority/Chamber of Commerce as mentioned above.
  • Chris Morton presented a quote in the approximate amount of $3,500 for repair work to be performed at the Ops building housed at the wastewater treatment plant. He also presented a quote by Southern Truck Center of Vidalia for truck and leaf machine repairs in the amount of approximately $14,464. With approximately $97,515 available in SPLOST funds, council approved both expenditure repairs to be covered by SPLOST funds.
  • Swainsboro Fire Department Chief Strobridge approached council with a request to hire Michael Wilson as a full-time firefighter. This request was unanimously passed by council.
  • Collins expressed her appreciation of sign installments honoring the 1969 Emanuel Co. Rattler’s State Track Champions and the 2007 SHS Boys State Track Champions.
  • A motion to amend the agenda to adopt LMIG 2022 and 2023 resolutions was unanimously passed by council. Council then voted 6 – 0 to award the projects to Sikes Brothers Inc. of Cobbtown for the maximum bid of 446,200, subject to the approval of the Department of Transportation.

The meeting then concluded with no action taken to enter executive session or adjournment.

Click here to view live footage from Monday night’s city council meeting!

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