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City of Vidalia Ends 2020 On Sound Financial Ground;New Airport Director Named

The City of Vidalia ended 2020 “in an extremely good financial position,” Finance Clerk Bill Bedingfield announced at the council’s last session of the year on December 14. Meeting at the City Multipurpose Center in downtown Vidalia, the council heard reports from department heads as part of its end of the year duties. Bedingfield, who retired at the end of December, introduced his replacement, Amy Murray, at the December session. Bedingfield told council members that the local option sales tax in December “is amazing at $190, 101.06, up 16.53% year to date.” He added that the special local option sales tax mirrors this trend, up 19.12% year to date. Transportation tax was up 15.03% year to date while hotel/motel taxes were down for the year by 11.51% and alcohol sales taxes were up by 11.38% for the year. He said the city was at 99.65% of its budget in December with the general fund at 91.67% for the highest fund balances year to date. So far, 26.61% of ad valorem taxes have been collected and outstanding taxes will be turned over to Peach State for collection.

He also took note of the Vidalia Airport finances achieving 114% of budgeted revenue and with a fund balance of $142,027.50. He said that fuel sales at the airport were 34,418 gallons ahead of 2019 sales at this same point.

Also, during the executive session, the City Council named interim Airport Director Billy Ragan as the facility’s permanent director.

Vidalia Police Commissioner Brian Scott reported that the Vidalia Police Department has responded to 29,274 calls for service, up 25% over 2019. He said that aggravated as­continued from page

sault and battery cases and armed robberies are down over 2019. He said that roadway crash enforcement has been down by 8% over 2019, but officers continue to have their biggest enforcement issues along Vidalia’s busy Highway 280/Main Street corridor. He said that all staff members have been trained in using newlyinstalled electronic equipment, as well as less lethal weapons, and use of a drug to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose made available through the Leigh Anne White clinic. The clinic received a grant to combat drug issues in Toombs County.

Toombs County Fire Chief Brian Sikes told the Council that his department had responded to 20 calls in November, and to date (as of the end of November) had answered 246 calls for assistance compared to 293 in 2019. He said his department also provides assistance with child safety seats in vehicles, distributes smoke detectors and provides assistance with fire risk reduction programs.

James O’Neal of ESG, a contractor for the City’s public works activities, told Council members that his crews have handled 320 water and sewer cutoffs and moved 85 loads (1270 yards or 472 tons) of limbs and leaves in the month of November alone.

Recreation Director Matt Smith said his department signed up 332 children for baseball and softball programs and 186 children signed up for soccer. He said his department has applied for a Land and Water Conservation Grant to upgrade Ed Smith Park. This work will include fencing and dugout covers.

City Manager Nick Overstreet issued a report from the City Marshal’s office regarding the removal of condemned housing. Cumulatively for 2020, four houses were demolished with the city covering the cost; six houses were demolished with owners covering the cost; and an additional five asbestos abatements and demolitions were begun. Under City ordinances regarding debris and derelict properties, 494 cases were made during 2020.

Michael Johnson of Community Men in Action submitted a proposal to alter the route of the annual MLK Day Parade. The route for the sixth annual parade would be conducted along Georgia Highway 280 necessitating approval by the GDOT, which is pending. The Council approved his request contingent on the GDOT action. Toombs- Montgomery County Chamber Executive Director Michele Johnson announced that Professional Development Day for Toombs Youth Leadership would be held January 7. The annual chamber membership meeting has been scheduled for February 4. A DOT Foods’ expansion created 399 jobs in 2020. She said there are hopes to relaunch the Vibrant Communities project the Chamber introduced in 2020. Alexa Britton, Vidalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director, told the Council that visitation at the Vidalia Museum is at 41% year to date as compared to 2019’s figures, owing to the health pandemic. She reported that work on the sound and lighting expansion project at the Pal Theatre is continuing. Some activities are going on at the theatre as the health protocol permits, including multiple small party rentals and movie showings. She noted that the Highway 15 Coalition is meeting by zoom and the Vidalia Onion Committee, which just announced a return of the Blue Angels to the Vidalia Onion Festival in 2022, will be meeting soon to discuss plans for the 2021 festival.

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