2017-10-12 / Front Page

Unusual low bid gets nod from city; will save $100,000 on manhole fixes

By SPARKY NEWSOME
editor and publisher

The Washington City Council spent a little over an hour discussing a variety of issues, rehashing some, acting on a few, and delaying others at Monday’s regular meeting.

Former Councilman Nathaniel Cullars appeared before the council with a list of questions including whether blueprints for the new fire station are complete and if so, why have they not been seen. Mayor Ames Barnett reported that while plans are complete, there is only a rough sketch at present and blueprints should be available by October 19.

Cullars also asked why emergency shelters were not open in Washington during the inclement weather associated with Hurricane Irma. Later in the meeting Wilkes County Emergency Management Agency Director Blake Thompson said that the Georgia Emergency Management Agency had required the opening of shelters only south of Interstate 20. He also said that he had only one local call during the storm and he handled that personally.

Further, Cullars asked if the city’s GeoTech system is still in place and inquired of the cost. City Administrator Sherri Bailey said the system is still in place but she was unprepared to report the cost. She said she would have that available at the next regular meeting of the council. Cullars also asked who is in charge of economic development for the city and what have they done specifically for District One. Neither Elizabeth Elliott, the city’s Main Street Director, nor Tiffany Rainey, the county’s Economic

Development Director was in attendance to respond.

Finally, Cullars complained that he had been contacted to pay $125 for a book. The book in question is a City Code book, the replacement cost of which is $125, according to Bailey. City Attorney Barry Fleming explained that “any time the City owns property, that property has to be returned to the City. Whatever an employee or an elected official has that belongs to the City, they have to give it back.” Since the issue has become a point of contention, Fleming suggested that with the election coming up in November and Cullars seeking a seat on the council, the City take no action at this time. If Cullars wins a seat on the council, he could be allowed to keep the book; if not, then discussion of appropriate action could be taken at that time.

Thompson, who is chairman of the local Christmas parade planning, announced that this year’s parade will be held on Saturday, December 9. He also announced that signups for the annual Toys for Tots campaign will be November 29-December 1.

Barnett thanked all the workers who assisted with “getting the lights back on, getting the city streets cleaned, getting the water lines, electric lines, streets, you name it” back in working order during and after Irma passed through. “Their lights were out at home too but they put aside their wants and needs to come and work for the city to get things taken care of for our citizens,” he said. “I’m proud of them and glad to work along side of them. I just want to thank them all for what they have done.”

The mayor also reported that as plans are finalized for the new fire station, plans for the city shop just off Whitehall Street will also be finalized soon and the two projects will be going up at the same time.

At the last meeting of the Council, which was held September 20 after being postponed due to Hurricane Irma, bids on the reconstruction of manholes between the industrial park and the solid waste treatment plant were considered but a decision was postponed due to the sizeable discrepancy between the low bidder and the second lowest bidder. There was some concern as to whether the low bidder could actually complete the job satisfactorily.

After consulting with the city’s engineer and others, it has been determined that the low bid, by Brooks Brothers Construction, and its sub-contractor, will be accepted at close to $100,000 less than the second lowest bid.

Other matters handled at that September meeting were summarized and explained at the request of Councilman Kimberly Rainey for those three members who were unable to attend. A report of the actions taken at that meeting was published in the September 28 edition of this newspaper.

Because it is evident that some city electric customers move around leaving unpaid bills at former addresses and use other means to avoid paying utility bills, the city has a policy concerning procedures for grace periods, extensions, and cutoffs. Councilman Marion Tutt questioned whether the current policy is adequate and up-to-date. Fleming advised that consideration of making some changes might be appropriate but that what is already in writing must be adhered to in the meantime.

There was further discussion on utility rates in general and how the City has worked to keep spending down in order to maintain utility rates. However, certain financial things are changing and an increase is inevitable at some point.

Tutt also reported that in talking with people as he campaigns for re-election, his constituents are asking to see more law enforcement officers on the job in the city.

“I talked with the sheriff about a month ago and asked what it would take to get two officers.” Understanding that it’s not that simple and that it would also take “a new car, you’ve got to suit him up, trainings, and XYZ,” Tutt said he would like to see at least one more officer hired for the City of Washington. He said he asked the sheriff how much it would cost to have at least one more officer for the city.

“We can ask him and see,” Barnett replied with no hesitation. “We are going through the budget process so if we can come up with a price we can see.”

Having just had ethics charges against him dismissed, Councilman Maceo Mahoney asked about the possibility of changing the composition of the Ethics Committee from council members to regular citizens. Fleming advised that such a change would involve the wording of the ordinance. The two agreed to meet together to develop something workable.

“The people are the ones we’re working for,” Mahoney said, “so I think they should be the ones looking at the complaints.”

Mahoney also brought up the need for after-school programs through Tenant Services with the Washington Housing Authority. Authority Board Chairman M.V. Booker explained that such a program is being considered and was expected by this month but planning was delayed. She indicated that planning could be complete by the time the board meets again in December and ready for implementation in January.

Mahoney also continued his push for redeveloping and updating the 1952 by-laws for the Housing Authority.

The Council approved the closing of The Square this Friday, October 13, for “Scare on The Square” activities and the showing of the movie, “Hocus Pocus.”

The use of Booker Park was approved for a community cookout to be held from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on October 21.

A hearing for the rezoning of property on Jackson Street was rescheduled for 5:30 p.m. on November 13 during the council’s work session at The Pope Center.

The next regular meeting of the Washington City Council will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, November 13, at The Pope Center.

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