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City tackles drainage and finalizes contract

By Deanna Ryan

The entire Swainsboro City Council met with Mayor Bennett and city attorney Jon Levis on Monday, March 06, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. at city hall. City finance director Chu Lin Ooi stood in as city clerk for Melissa Kirby.

Preceding the meeting, a public hearing was held on the proposed increase in city council pay. Veteran Robert Nobles spoke before the board saying the council members deserved an increase. Columnist Ron Moore agreed with the increase. Local businesswoman Shayna Boston asked what the increase would be. Mayor Bennett stated each council member’s pay would go from $200 to $800 per month, but there would be no increase in his pay. Mayor Bennett thanked the public for their input. During the regular meeting the increase was approved 6:0.

The agenda was amended to include Chris Morton of Clearwater Solutions addressing the water treatment plant emergency and to move next month’s city council meeting to Monday, April 10th.

Shayna Boston introduced Natalie Jordan’s 6th grade Swainsboro Middle School’s social studies class who were attending the meeting to better understand the local government process.

In old business, the council discussed entering into an agreement with Enterprise fleet management plan. 6th grade SMS student Karlie Bettencourt asked what fleet management meant. The mayor responded it was a way of leasing vehicles for the city. He also explained the benefit of leasing police and public works with Enterprise was that for the first three years, there would be no maintenance on the cars beyond an upfront upkeep charge. At the end of five years, Enterprise would sell the car. A total of eight cars are scheduled to be leased in the first contract. Eventually all of the city’s cars would be leased and uniform. The motion to start leasing with Enterprise next year passed unanimously.

Rita Faulkner addressed the council to request an update on the Robin Road Project. Chris Morton of Clearwater said all of the easement area had been handled. Photos of the area were provided. Council John E. Parker recalled Turnipseed engineer noting Robin Road as a natural floodplain. Council Johnny Ray Stafford said, “What I understand was there was a report with some outrageous figures. He said they are going to keep the ditch clean and keep it draining downstream.” Faulkner formally requested a written report of what has been done.

In new business, the council approved Chris Morton’s suggestion to purchase the Scag lawn mowers after presenting three quotes. He noted that Scag was chosen because the brand has been purchased before and the city has extra parts.

Council Stafford asked about the old lift and if the council would want to sell it for $800. Attorney Levis noted the city can’t sell off old equipment without advertising if it is over $500. The council voted unanimously to advertise selling the lift.

Morton also approached the council with the need for two waste pumps at the water treatment plant that had stopped working. The replacements would cost $8,635 a piece. The motion passed unanimously.

Council approved advertising for a public hearing on the Storm Water Management Extent of Service Policy. Attorney Levis explained the policy needed to clarify the city’s responsibilities when dealing with drainage and how to address emergency issues where the city must act.

Attorney Levis addressed the council regarding the revision of the blight ordinance. He stated that under the policy right now, there would need to be a court filing and process involved for the city to intervene. According to Levis the General Assembly of Georgia has a nuisance ordinance which will go into effect July 1, 2023. Council Parker asked if the ordinance would apply to all properties within the city public and private? Levis stated that a nuisance statute applies to both public and private land. He also noted that if the policy was properly worded, the city would be able to get a lien on the property for the amount of money needed to clean up or remediate the problem. Council DJ David reminded the council that this was what was needed to take action to remove the roadblock on the dilapidated property next door to Mrs. Jacqueline Brantley who has approached the council several times regarding the issue. The motion was passed to have a first and second reading on the wording of the ordinance.

Mayor Bennett addressed the council regarding the recreation department consolidation by asking, “Why are we paying half of the recreation department when we’re not using half?” He also stated, “Right now, it’s like there are two bosses, city and county, over the recreation department. That doesn’t work.” He noted that if the county took over some of the shared recreational areas, then the management costs for these areas would come from the county’s special purpose local options tax money, saving the city lots of money that would translate into a decrease in the city’s mileage rate. He added that the county is drawing up the details, but they’ve promised no current employees would get terminated. The county would maintain larger parks and ballparks such as Harmon Park, Dixie ballparks, and the Recreational area, while the city would maintain the smaller parks: Veterans and First Responders, Gumlog, Longview and Founders Cemetery park. The motion passed unanimously to accept the terms of the Emanuel County recreation department consolidation.

Matthew Bright addressed the council about the curve in the road affecting the flooding in his yard. He also requested the city’s insurance response to be sent to his Nunez address.

Regarding business applications, the council approved 5:1 the game room application for Urvano Bustamante dba MI Reyna Tienda Mexicana located at 230 West Morning Street. They also approved 6:0 advertising a game room license application for Maheshkumar Patel dba Mike's Food Mart located at 505 North Main Street.

After the executive session, the council voted unanimously to go into a negotiations with Mr. Matthew Bright regarding his property and to go into an agreement with Mrs. Dubberly as regards to work required on her property as determined by the Sconyers and Stafford subcommittee. Council Parker asked what the agreement with Dubberly entailed. Council Julian Sconyers described the installation of a “36 inch pipe with flared ends and connecting bands” and the “removal of trees to give the right of way to repair the ditch and to cover it over and grass it.”

The council also voted unanimously to present a revised contract (including 10 vacation days, moving expenses, and a salary of $105,000) to city administrator candidate Mr. Herman Middlebrooks and for him to be hired upon agreeing to the exact terms with no more changes.


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