Fencing Issue Divides Two Alamo Councilmen
A difference in opinions about a fence appeared to divide two members of the Alamo City Council as they met in a monthly session on May 23. The matter of fencing came up during a report on the progress at the City’s Recreation Center, which is being refurbished and expanded with a $200,000 matching grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The grant agreement requires the City to set aside $200,000 from its General Fund/ Savings and ARP allocation for the project; 50% of this amount will be refunded by DNR.
City Manager Jeff Floyd advised the Council that four 14 by 14 foot gazebos, four picnic tables, and concrete pads for these improvements had been installed at a cost of $29,980. Four grills for the park pavilions had been purchased at a cost of $1,000. Floyd said that he is exploring lighting options, including large lights mounted on poles and decorative lighting. He said plans also call for a 254 by 38 foot paved parking area and upgrades to the park’s existing concession stand and restrooms, including handicapped access. Floyd also mentioned that he had been in touch with an expert on the pricing of 360-degree security cameras at the site.
Councilman Steve Jones expressed concern that his earlier request to add fencing to the site, in addition to surveillance equipment, might be “dropped down in priority.” He reminded the Council that its previous approval of a measure giving the project managers permission to spend from the park budget as needed, rather than to have each purchase approved by the Council, was contingent on security being accomplished early in the project. During an April 18 session, Councilman Dondrea Geter asked the City Council to give blanket approval to expending funds from the park budget without having to go to the Council for approval of each individual purchase. Geter pointed out that the budget is finite because of the DNR stipulations for the grant, and overages cannot occur.
The Council agreed to Geter’s request with a stipulation from Councilman Jones that security systems be installed first and not left until later in the project.
Councilman Geter, who was attending the May 23 session via a remote connection, told Jones that he felt security is being addressed with the surveillance equipment. He said, “I know a lot of parks function without fencing.” Jones countered, “We have fencing around our walking track.” The Council took no further action on the fencing issue.
A number of city residents came before the Council to inquire about the enforcement of its property maintenance ordinance, which is intended to eliminate derelict property and abandoned vehicles in city neighborhoods. Specifically, citizens voiced concern over a city worker whose overgrown yard and deteriorating, abandoned house have been the source of complaints by neighbors for years. Floyd advised that three or four abandoned houses in the City of Alamo have been demolished so far, but progress has been slowed down because of the presence of asbestos in some of the housing targeted for removal. Regarding the city worker’s property, Floyd said some progress has been made, specifically the removal of trees and undergrowth. In response to a citizen’s inquiry about fining violators of the ordinance City Attorney Russell Clark advised that the ordinance can be amended to include fines, and Floyd told citizens attending the session that he will look into the matter.
Also, in response to a citizen’s request, Floyd agreed to provide reports on the ordinance enforcement at the City’s monthly sessions.
Progress on New City Hall
Floyd reported that work is “moving along” on the new City Hall to be located in a historic, city-owned property fronting Main Street. He also informed the Council that he had received an overview and final ruling from the Department of the Treasury which supported using ARPA funds to renovate the property.
Floyd said that he expects to have construction documents returned by Vidalia architect Fred Dean by Friday, June 3.
The Council has budgeted $600,000 for the project, but will set aside $800,000 in the event of unforeseen overages due to the rising cost of building materials. The Council targeted December, 31, 2022, as a finish date for the project.
The City has been contemplating for several years the need to relocate City Hall from a modified convenience store, which has become obsolete. The structure being considered as a new location for City Hall will also accommodate a new Alamo Police Station.
Floyd estimated the renovation will cost approximately $125 per square foot for City Hall and $100 per square foot for the police station. The project will be funded from the City’s General Fund/Savings ($250,000), from a previous ARPA allocation ($250,000), and from an expected June 2022 ARP allocation ($300,000). Any funds remaining from the $800,000 set aside for the project would be returned to the respective accounts from which the funds were drawn. Vidalia architect Fred Dean, who was hired to provide preliminary plans for the project, will stay on board for the completion of the project.
Councilwoman Patricia Woodard reported that the City’s Alamo Strategic Planning Alliance ASAP is exploring ways to use ARPA funds to directly benefit citizens. One way may be by extending $200 credits to businesses and individuals who are city water customers. She said that persons in public housing and subsidized apartments would be ineligible since they don’t pay water bills. “This is just an initial thought. We are still working on defining parameters and will make a presentation to the Council.”
Floyd told the Council that T-SPLOST funds will pay for work at the site of a fire hydrant on Hartley Road. He advised that the hydrant and water valve at the site are in jeopardy of being damaged because of heavyduty vehicles traversing the road at the site. The Council approved the work. Floyd also noted he had received a quote of $12,000 for paving an alley behind City Hall and had an estimate of $9,800 for paving an alley on Pearl Street. The Council asked him to solicit further quotes for the projects.
Updating Codes and Ordinances
City Attorney Russell Clark advised the Council that City of Alamo codes and ordinances need updating.
The Council approved paying an intern in Clark’s office to update the codes and ordinances, compiling them into a resource that can be reviewed by the public. The update will require researching the City’s ordinances since incorporation to the present, and verifying whether the ordinances are still active or relevant.
The City approved contracting Stacey Avery, CPA, to conduct its 2021 audit at a cost of $4,000 (with a potential additional fee of up to $1,000 for ARPA Funding). The approval is contingent on Avery’s agreement to meet with City staff in person, a condition requested by Councilwoman Woodard.
Floyd reported that the Council has officially closed the purchase of a former hardware store at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Georgia Highway 126.
The Council voted on April 18 to purchase the property at a cost of $150,000, with $100,000 being allocated from the General Fund and $50,000 from savings. The property, which includes several structures, may be used for city functions, a farmer’s market and potentially as rental property for incoming businesses, Floyd said.