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Vidalia Council Approves City Branding Project

Branding is how a community tells its story, and Vidalia will be involved in its own branding project beginning in the summer of 2021.

At the regular meeting of the Vidalia City Council on Monday, September 14, Vidalia Convention & Visitors Bureau (VCVB) Director Alexa Britton requested approval of a contract with the Carl Vinson Institute (CVI) at the University of Georgia for a citywide branding project. City Attorney Justin Franklin reviewed the contract prior to the session.

This project, approved by the Council at this meeting, would impact and benefit all departments of the City. Britton proposed that the projected continued from page

cost of $55,000, to be paid in two payments after the project is completed, be split between VCVB and the City of Vidalia’s departments.

City Manager Nick Overstreet stated that Michele Johnson, Director of the Toombs County Development Authority and President of the Toombs- Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, has expressed interest in being involved in this project, which could further divide the expenses.

CVI is a public service unit whose mission is to help communities improve the quality of life. Britton said the institute gives excellent service, working with one community project at a time, and at a good cost.

Britton said, “The part that to me is most interesting is, this is about bringing together people from the whole city, all parts of the city, all socioeconomic backgrounds, different neighborhoods and they all get input. They (the public) all get to talk about history, or tell us stories that we don’t know, and industry is involved, businesses are involved. You put together a steering committee that represents the whole city.” The CVI uses all of that information in media and on a variety of products to create “a consistent, physical representation” of the community that can foster relationships between the city governments, populations and visitors to the area.

Downtown Vidalia Association Director Tonya Parker made a request to the Council that the annual Spooktacular Halloween event be set for the last Thursday of October to avoid complications of determining what date to set each year. The Council approved Parker’s request. This year Spooktacular will be held on October 29 and will be organized to follow a safe, socially-distanced trail of trick or treating with the merchants. A map for this event with street closures will be provided to the Council at its October meeting. Vidalia Police Commissioner Brian Scott confirmed that police patrol will also be active on Saturday night, October 31, for neighborhood trick or treating.

Debbie Evans, Chamber of Commerce Executive VP of Operations, reported for the Chamber and the Development Authority. Toombs- Montgomery Youth Leadership (TMYL) is set to have its orientation this month and the adult Leadership Toombs-Montgomery will attend the popular Agribusiness session this month.

Evans reported that the Chamber is sponsoring a City of Vidalia mayoral candidates’ debate and a Toombs and Montgomery commission candidates’ debate to be held October 1 at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Georgia Technical College in Vidalia. This is a free, ticketed event which will allow for safe, social distancing. Tickets may be requested by calling the chamber. Also, the chamber will be accepting questions to be asked of the candidates. Those interested in submitting questions must do so by 5 p.m. on September 28. The names of those submitting the questions will be withheld. Questions may be submitted to anno@toombschamber. com.

Finance Director Bill Bedingfi eld detailed the City’s finances. Numbers continue to show positive gain on the local option sales tax. Montgomery County, with an 18% gain last month, had Toombs County’s largest gain ever seen in sales taxes. In Vidalia, alcoholic beverage taxes are up 10.69% while hotel-motel taxes are down 13.65%. The hotel-motel revenue may be the most difficult to recover.

The first 30% of the CARES Act has been funded to the City of Vidalia and is applied to the financials as a positive gain of $163,000. An application has been sent in for the remaining 70%, or $381,000, and that is expected to be received by the end of September. These CARES Act funds will be used as reimbursement of extra labor costs of public safety, health insurance and PPE supplies needed during the COVID shutdown.

Bedingfield said the Recreation Department revenues, charged services and expenditures are down. Despite the difficulties of cancelled programs and refunds given, Director Matt Smith and his staff have handled this past season as efficiently as possible under the circumstances related to COVID.

The Council approved a resolution for a land and water conservation grant. This is a 50-50 match grant for which the application is due in October and if awarded to Vidalia, would be received in February. Half of the funding would come from SPLOST. The funding would be used to modernize the Recreation Department facilities by redoing fencing, playground lighting, dugouts and bleachers. This resolution is supported by the Recreation Department Board.

With the resignation last month of Second Ward Councilman Greg Johnson, who is running for mayor of Vidalia in the November 3 election, the Council was advised by the city attorney regarding a public notice prepared with the Toombs County Elections Office. Election Code timing requirements allow for the election of a new Council member to be held Tuesday, March 16, 2021. The Council approved the date of this election.

Overstreet reported that half of a CARES Act grant of $30,000 has been applied for to be used for overhead continued from page

operations at the Vidalia Airport. Also, a base bid for the main portion of repairs needed on the apron at the airport will be due in mid-October. Bedingfi eld reported that despite revenue being down, the airport continues to operate with a positive fund balance. Bedingfield commended airport Director Billy Ragan and his staff for maintaining good operations.

A $1 million grant received in 2019 that will add new sidewalks in the vicinity of Sally D. Meadows Elementary School has moved into the next phase with three engineering companies submitting bids for the work. Once a bid for the project is approved, construction can begin.

The Department of Transportation grant requires a $250,000 match from the City of Vidalia. The ADA-compliant project will add cement sidewalks with grass perimeters over an area of several city blocks, and include trash receptacles as well as solar-powered benches with ports for recharging electronic devices.

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