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Council passes 16 items, names park

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

By Deanna Ryan

The Swainsboro City Council moved quickly through several items on the sixteen-count agenda, with most motions passing unanimously. The regular meeting was held at 6 p.m. on Monday, December 05, 2022. In attendance were Mayor Greg Bennett and City Council Members John E. Parker, David J. Davis, Johnny Ray Stafford, Julian Sconyers, Gregory Quarterman and Bobbie Collins along with City Administrator Melissa Kirby and City Attorney Jon Levis and a full house of local citizens.

The Nov. 7th and 15th meeting minutes were presented, read and passed.

In old business, the council approved Gumlog Gym and Karrh Theater construction project contracts with recommended changes from Attorney Levis who advised the council of the importance of being in compliance with ARPA (American Rescue Plan) regulations to use funds. He also advised revising the contracts to ensure knowing the timeline for construction, the goal post for cost and proof of insurance prior to construction.

Mayor Bennett said the contracts needed to be approved by the contractor and that the price would go up on both projects because of the ARPA requirement for fixed costs. He also outlined projected funding sources as hotel/motel taxes, ARPA, Chamber of Commerce, and SPLOST for the project.

Councilman Parker asked about the operation of the theater and gym. The Downtown Development Authority will operate the theater. The entity that will operate the gym is yet to be determined. Parker motioned to move forward with the contracts containing Levis recommended changes. The motion passed 5:1 with Sconyers against.

Chief Mike Strobridge discussed roofing issues at fire headquarters. Administrator Kirby provided quotes from different contractors along with the type and length of the warranties. A motion to pay $43,320 for a roof with a 20-year warranty was passed 6:0.

Council unanimously approved the bid for the airport Apron Rehabilitation project, the resolution for the creation of the airport authority, the intergovernmental agreement for the airport, and proceeding with the de-annexation of the airport property. Councilman Davis asked what would happen if “10 years down the road people get in there who don’t know what they are doing and things fall short. Would the city be required to pick up the bill?” Attorney Levis said they could include a termination provision for the next calendar year in case something like that happens. He also mentioned there would be budgetary oversight with one to three representatives on the board to protect the city.

In new business, Johnny Tapley addressed the council regarding the cemetery. He reminded the council that on December 17th 1,361 wreaths will be put on the graves of local veterans for Wreaths Across America. “Dying is not the worst thing to happen. It’s to be forgotten,” he said. “All we want to do is put a wreath on every veteran's grave in the county.”

Tapley also brought a petition with 40 signatures for the memorial park at the corner of Main and Kite to be named the Veterans and First Responders Memorial Park. He noted the trail had yet to be cemented even though it was built in 2011. The motion to name the park passed 6:0.

The motion for advertisement for a game room application for Dirghayu V. Patel passed 6:0.

Mayor Bennett drew attention to “the pretty lights on the square” as a lead in to the downtown electrical issues. Ponce Electric helped out with electrical problems identified by the city as Christmas lights were being put up, but said there were some real hazards that needed to be handled. According to Chris Morton with Clearwater Solutions, the lamp posts have ground fault circuit interrupter devices that are open to weathering. Over 119 need to be replaced. In the past, LED bulbs were put in incandescent receptacles, causing expensive bulbs to blow. Morton reported some issues come from concrete being poured over wiring and that some fixes will require cutting into the sidewalk. Motion to determine and price electrical fixes was passed 6:0.

Chief Mike Strobridge requested funds for Personal Protective Equipment for two new employees. Motion was made to fund using SPLOST money and passed 6:0.

Chief Randy Ellison presented a quote from West Chatham Warning Devices for Equipment to update a new patrol car. Motion passed 6:0.

Chief Ellison reminded the council that Shop with a Cop was put off until Friday because of the upcoming Tigers game.

Building Inspector Bruce Kirby presented a request for a used truck. Motion for new Chevrolet at $46,000 from ARPA funds passed 4:2.

Council considered MW Collins Inc. quote of $49,500 for inert material grinding and removal from city landfill. Mayor Bennett asked about the possibility of buying a chainsaw and giving free firewood to the public. Morton stated the problem stemmed from it being "an unlicensed dumping area" that has 90 days to be cleared to abide by EPA standards. He proposed a program that could cost the city less by setting up regular 6-month removal.

“We’ve spent $150,000 in one calendar year for this,” Mayor Bennett stated.

Morton mentioned the problem needed to be handled and that some of the dumping wasn’t legal. He suggested a police drone may be useful in showing the changes that have happened over time. Chief Ellison suggested a keypad gate to prevent illegal entry. Councilman Davis suggested video surveillance. A motion was made to get quotes on a keypad gate for the dumping ground and another motion was made to spend the first $50,000 of next fiscal year to clean up the landfill. Both passed 6:0.

The Council unanimously approved the Ponce Electric, Inc. quote for electrical repairs at the airport and advertising to increase council fees to $800 a month with an effect date of January 1, 2024.

Two motions were made at the end of the meeting by Councilmen Sconyers and Davis. Sconyers motioned to change the January meeting to Tuesday, January 10th passed 5:1. Davis motioned to address the blighted property across from Mojos. Attorney Levis is sending out statutes on blighted and nuisance properties for council to read.

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