By Mike Williams
On Monday June 20, 2022 , the Swainsboro City Council held a called meeting to discuss and approve the intergovernmental agreement for the upcoming SPLOST referendum. All council members were present except for Greg Quarterman. Johnny Ray Stafford gave the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by mayor Greg Bennett. The mayor then asked for council to review minutes from the last meeting, a motion was made and seconded to accept the minutes as read. Councilman John Parker said he was not ready for the vote. After a few minutes Parker stated he had opposed section 3 where council went into executive session, he stated that a settlement can’t be made in executive session that it must be made in open session. He further stated that this has been said several times but it seems to fall upon deaf ears. City attorney John Levis informed him that settlement terms false under attorney client privilege and cannot be made public. Parker disagreed and said that anytime you are dealing with money sir that it has to be done in public. Parker ended by saying he just refused to sign the minutes. Mayor Bennett then asked for a vote on the minutes which passed 3-2.
Mayor Bennett then stated that he and city administrator Melissa Kirby have met with Emanuel County administrator Guy Singletary numerous times to discuss how SPLOST monies will be divided among the other municipalities in the county. In the last SPLOST the city received 2.8 million dollars over six years. This year the city is getting 3.4 million. Also in the last SPLOST the recreation department and the airport, which are considered Tier 1 projects, did not receive any money, this year recreation has $1.25 million dollars estimated while the airport will receive $500 thousand. Mayor Bennett emphasized that these figures are all estimates because you don’t really know what sales tax is going to be. City administrator Kirby reminded council that the task for them tonight was to approve the intergovernmental agreement so that it can be put on the referendum in the November election.
The biggest expenditure is on emergency communications for police and fire coming in at $490,000. This allows that each unit gets upgraded radios as well as a handheld radio. Also a new emergency communications tower is included. Councilman DJ Davis explained as he understands that currently, when an officer steps 10 feet away from their car that they no longer have communications with dispatch and when they walk into a school they do not have contact. This is a safety issue especially in the current climate in our country. The mayor stated that he feels this is a win/win for Swainsboro.
Councilman Parker asked what were the public facilities that are discussed in the agreement. Both mayor Bennett and administrator Kirby stated that public facilities could be any building that the city currently owns and that the language of the agreement is meant to be vague so that in the future if council decides to vote to spend it on something that is not listed, they will not be locked into a prior commitment. The mayor asked if there were ay further discussion and Councilperson Collins said the she had not had sufficient time to look over and fully understand the agreement. Administrator Kirby stated she sent the agreement via email to all council members at 2pm for them to review before the meeting. Other council members spoke up and said they had received it and had plenty of time to review and come to the meeting with questions. Councilperson Collins continued that she couldn’t fully comprehend the agreement although it was stated that the city’s part was only one paragraph. Further explanation was extended to councilperson Collins by mayor Bennett and other council members. Councilman Parker then asked that by public facilities could that also mean the gym and the theatre and by definition that means it could. City attorney Levis reiterated to council that their job in this meeting was to approve or not approve the intergovernmental agreement so that it could be include in the referendum in November.
The mayor then asked if there was any further discussion, Councilman Sconyers stated there was a motion and second on the floor and to call the question. Mayor Bennett asked who was in favor of passing the intergovernmental agreement, the vote was taken and passed 4-0 with Councilperson Collins abstaining. The mayor then asked if there was a motion to adjourn and said motion was made, seconded and voted to adjourn.