The regular meeting of the Pooler City Council was held on April 2, 2007. Mayor Mike Lamb called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. Present were Councilmen Bruce Allen, Mike Royal, Wayne Seay, Billy Stanley, Stevie Wall and Councilwoman Rebecca Benton. City Manager Dennis Baxter, Assistant City Manager Robbie Byrd and City Attorney Steve Scheer were also present.
The invocation was given by Councilman Allen and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Councilman Seay.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as printed upon a motion by Councilman Allen, seconded by Councilwoman Benton, with no opposition.
Report from the Standing Committees:
Councilman Stanley presented bills for payment and made a motion to pay, subject to funds. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
Councilman Bruce Allen reported that the police department responded to 1376 calls since the last meeting. Chief Jay Hillis reported that the fire department responded to 163 calls in March. Chief C. E. Chan stated that the police department will be participating with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety traffic campaign task force which has been formed due to recent traffic fatalities. Further, that information has been received from Hubert Baker in regards to funeral services being donated to police officers and fire personnel who are killed in the line of duty.
STREET/DRAINAGE/PARKS & TREES
Councilman Seay reported that the street, drainage and parks and trees departments have performed routine maintenance.
Councilman Wall reported that the water and sewer departments have performed routine maintenance and that all parameters are being met at the wastewater treatment plant.
Councilman Royal reported that tee ball signups end April 6th and that the baseball and softball season will kick off soon.
Councilwoman Benton reported that 23 new single family residential, six (6) attached unit and eight (8) stacked condominium permits have been issued since the last meeting, totaling 153 residential, 34 attached unit and 16 stacked condominium permits for the year, with 3520 inspections performed.
Councilwoman Benton made a motion to re-appoint Charles Archer to the Planning & Zoning Board for another term. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
Mayor Lamb presented a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the year 2005 to Finance Officer Shelly Cromwell, commending the Finance Department for a job well done.
There was no OLD BUSINESS to discuss.
Under NEW BUSINESS the following was discussed:
1. Approval of site plan for LaQuinta Inn and Suites at Parsons Avenue & Gray Street
Mr. Baxter presented the site plan for a new LaQuinta Inn and Suites (formerly Country Inn & Suites) to be built on the corner of Parsons Avenue and Gray Street, stating that all of the engineer’s comments have been addressed and that Planning & Zoning and staff have recommended approval. Councilman Wall stated that the original site plan approved on September 7, 2004, had access only to and from Parsons Avenue, noting that Gray Street was not wide enough to handle traffic from the motel. Jasper Wayne Proctor, engineer on the project, replied that access is needed in all areas and that the plan show Gray Street widened by two feet (2'). Anil Patel, owner, stated that the plan can be revised to keep traffic from the motel on Parsons Avenue. Councilman Wall made a motion to approve this site plan, contingent upon no access to or from Gray Street. Motion was seconded by Councilwoman Benton and passed without opposition.
2. Approval of major subdivision plat for Lot 33, Pooler Park of Commerce
Mr. Baxter presented a major subdivision plan for Lot 33, Pooler Park of Commerce, to create 21 individual units in seven (7) buildings. This will allow the owner to sell each unit within each office building. Planning & Zoning and staff have recommended, therefore, Councilman Wall made a motion to approve this major subdivision. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
3. Approval of subdivision plat revision for The Arbors, Phase 7C
Mr. Baxter presented the revised subdivision plat for Phase 7C of The Arbors, stating that Planning & Zoning and staff have recommended approval. Councilwoman Benton made a motion, seconded by Councilman Allen, to approve this revision. Motion passed without opposition.
4. Approval of recombination plat for Lots 32 and 33, Westside Business Park
Michael Willoughby of Southeast Engineering and Environmental requested that this item be tabled. Councilman Allen made a motion to table this item. Motion was seconded by Councilwoman Benton and passed without opposition.
5. Approval of revised site plan for Lot 32, Westside Business Park
Michael Willoughby of Southeast Engineering and Environmental requested that this item be tabled. Councilwoman Benton made a motion to table this item. Motion was seconded by Councilman Allen and passed without opposition.
6. Approval of construction plan for major subdivision at southeast corner of Pooler
Parkway & Pine Barren Road for the Lowe’s site and five (5) outparcels
Mr. Baxter presented the construction plan for a major subdivision for the proposed Lowe’s Home Center and five (5) outparcels, stating that all of the engineer’s comments have been addressed. The main access to the Lowe’s Home Center and the outparcels will be through the two (2) proposed curb cuts, in line with the existing approved median cuts, on Pooler Parkway that have been submitted to Chatham County for approval. Kendal Jones of Hull Storey Retail Group was present to answer any questions. Councilwoman Benton expressed concern over the Parkway turning into an Abercorn Street, recommending a frontage road to serve this subdivision and to be tied into when the adjacent property develops. Mayor Lamb questioned whether the roads can be addressed later (sketch plan). Mr. Jones replied that the development has been limited to access the Parkway only and that a traffic signal is proposed at the center driveway and will be paid for by the developer. Councilman Wall stated that these issues can be discussed with the sketch plan when it is submitted. Councilwoman Benton reiterated her concern over the need for a frontage road, stating that there is more property to the south to be developed. After further discussion, Councilman Wall made a motion to approve this construction plan, contingent upon EPD approval and receipt of a signed water and sewer agreement with the City. Motion was seconded by Councilman Royal and passed without opposition.
7. Approval of site plan for proposed office/warehouse on Lot 23, Westside Business Park
Mr. Baxter presented the site plan for a proposed office/warehouse on Lot 23, Westside Business Park, stating that all of the engineer’s comments have been addressed. Councilman Allen made a motion, seconded by Councilwoman Benton, to approve this site plan. Motion passed without opposition.
8. Acceptance of maintenance bond/approval of final plat for Berkeley Walk, Phase I
Mr. Baxter presented this request from Lanyard Holdings, LLC to accept the maintenance bond and approve the final plat for Phase I of Berkeley Walk Subdivision, located at the end of East Haven Boulevard. All of the infrastructure is complete and an inspection has been performed by the Public Works Department. Councilwoman Benton made a motion to accept the maintenance bond in the amount of $76,973.00 and approve the final plat, contingent upon the city attorney approving the bond. Motion was seconded by Councilman Allen and passed without opposition.
9. Approval to reduce maintenance bond for Daniel’s Tract
Mr. Baxter presented this request from Market East Plaza, LLC to reduce the maintenance bond for the Daniel’s Tract Subdivision by 50%, stating that the Public Works Department has verified there were found no faults or failures visible at the time of inspection. Councilman Allen made a motion, seconded by Councilman Seay, to approve the maintenance bond being reduced by 50%. Motion passed without opposition.
10. Release of maintenance bond for The Retreat @ Forest Lakes, Phases 2 & 3
Mr. Baxter presented this request from the developer of The Retreat @ Forest Lakes to release the maintenance bond for Phases 2 & 3, stating that staff has recommended approval. Councilwoman Benton made a motion to release the maintenance bond. Motion was seconded by Councilman Allen and passed without opposition.
11. Request for reconsideration of the approved site plan for Danbury Park
Mr. Baxter presented this request for reconsideration of the approved (March 19, 2007) site plan for Danbury Park Townhomes to be located within the gates of Savannah Quarters, stating that the approval was based on the recommendation of the City’s engineer and Fire Chief Jay Hillis for the road to be 22' wide. Chad Zittrouer of Kern-Coleman & Company stated that this issue has been revisited by the City’s review engineer who has agreed that a 20' width would be sufficient. Further, that he has spoken with Chief Hillis who has also agreed. Councilman Wall asked Chief Hillis if 20' was adequate. Chief Hillis replied that emergency vehicles will use both lanes for access and that he has been informed there will be no gate at the entrance. Councilman Allen requested that the homeowners’ association monitor vehicles parking on the road. Mr. Zittrouer stated that the issue of no parking on the road will be addressed in the restrictive covenants. Councilman Allen made a motion to approve the site plan for Danbury Park Townhomes with the road being 20' wide instead of 22', contingent upon the Fire Chief’s concerns being considered.
12. Roy Patel’s request to tie into Garden City’s water and sewer service for property located at northwest quadrant of Highway 80 & Dean Forest Road
Mr. Baxter presented this request from Mr. Patel, stating that water and sewer service is currently not available to this area, stating that he has met with Mr. Patel and the city’s engineer and determined that Garden City must approve this first. Further, that plans are being worked on to provide these services, but are not soon enough for Mr. Patel. Attorney David Sneed, representing Mr. Patel, stated that Garden City has given conceptual approval. Councilman Allen expressed that he is not comfortable with approving this until Garden City submits a written agreement. Mr. Sneed replied that Garden City is willing to allow a temporary connection and has agreed to Mr. Patel disconnecting when Pooler has availability. Councilwoman Benton questioned if Council is being asked to enter into an intergovernmental agreement. Mr. Sneed stated that his client is asking that the City move forward. Councilman Wall stated that Garden City is experiencing withdrawal problems, as other municipalities are, and was not sure that Garden City would be able to approve providing water to this area. Mr. Sneed reiterated his client’s need for services, asking Council to work on an agreement, adding there was some amount of uncertainty. After further discussion, Councilwoman Benton made a motion to authorize the city manager to begin negotiations with Garden City. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition. Jack Brewton, resident, questioned the proximity of the City of Savannah’s water line to this area. Mr. Baxter replied that the line ends at the Wall property on Dean Forest Road.
13. Approval of amendment to Agreement with Pooler Crossroads Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Baxter presented the amendment to the Agreement with the Pooler Crossroads Chamber of Commerce (PCCC), stating that a budget adjustment has been submitted to provide funds to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum to be used for tourism. Councilman Wall recommended that the provision for a 90-day termination be changed to a 30-day and that the Museum be given a minimum of $75,000 and made a motion to approve this amendment with these changes. Motion was seconded by Councilwoman Benton. Discussion followed, wherein Steve Hartley, resident, requested Council table this until after Item #17 has been discussed. Councilman Wall stated that the current agreement with the PCCC needed to be amended and that the Museum was the largest tourist attraction in the City of Pooler and should receive money to be used to promote tourism. Councilman Allen made a motion to move this item to the foot of the agenda. Motion was seconded by Councilman Stanley. Councilwoman Benton, Councilman Royal, Councilman Seay and Councilman Wall voted in opposition. Therefore, the motion did not pass. Lou Phelps of the Coastal Empire News questioned the legitimacy of the PCCC, stating that she thought it had been disbanded and replaced by the Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce (PACC). Ms. Phelps asked if there were two (2) functioning chambers where hotel/motel taxes were being disbursed. Mr. Scheer replied that there is currently only one contract (agreement) with the PCCC. Ms. Phelps questioned how the City is disbursing funds to an entity she believes to be disbanded and if not, is there a board of directors, membership, president or executive director, further asking who would monitor and file paperwork relative to the State of Georgia in regards to hotel/motel tax and if this is the first time Council has decided to give funds to the PCCC. Councilman Wall replied that there are two (2) Chambers with 501( c) 6 status, that the PCCC has been given money in the past, through the PACC, while operating as a Visitors Center with their old charter and sponsoring coffee breaks and the Flying Pig Festival. Mr. Hartley asked if someone has been hired to ensure compliance with the laws, as stated by Mr. Scheer at the time the original agreement was approved. Mr. Scheer replied that their exhibit provides for an employee and an audit. Audy Davis of Ashley’s Business Solutions presented concern about having two (2) chambers in the City, questioning why $75,000 was being given to a visitors center who at one time was a chamber when there is a new chamber with over 250 members. Councilman Wall replied that $75,000 is being given to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum through the PCCC who has given more money to the Museum since 2003 than the PACC has ever given the Museum. Further, that there is money ($58,000) unaccounted for by the PACC, including $30,000 additional funds given to the PACC and $28,000 that was to go to the PCCC. Councilman Wall explained that number (7) in the contract with the PACC, it states that any budget adjustment or change in Exhibit “A” must come before Council because tax money has to be accounted for. Mayor Lamb stated that these issues have been worked on for quite a while, noting that both chambers have had problems admittedly. Further, that Council needs to address these issues and find out where the money was spent. Rachel Gibbs, President of the PACC, questioned if the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum would be requested to change their sign to reflect “Pooler” instead of “Savannah” as was requested in the past when they were to receive a donation from the Chamber. Mr. Scheer replied that the money will be contracted to be used to promote tourism. Councilman Wall stated that Council could not make them change their sign, reiterating the fact that the Museum is the number one tourist attraction in the City of Pooler and that he does not understand why the PACC would not give any money to the Eighth Air Force. Ms. Gibbs asked if the contract could be contingent upon them promoting tourism in Pooler. Mr. Scheer replied that they have to use the money to promote tourism. Stephanie Horn, resident, pointed out that the Chamber’s budget is approved through the Board of Directors and then to Council for approval, adding that if the Board overlooked the Museum not receiving any money because the former directors did not provide for it in the budget, then the Board and Council were at fault. In answer to questions about there being $58,000 missing, Ms. Horn stated that Council has been given a copy of a letter from Brandon Galloway, past President of the PACC, outlining the debt incurred from Poolerfest 2005. Ms. Horn stated that the festival cost the Chamber $146,000, with no profit being made, adding that the former director (Elinor Minshew) obtained a $50,000 loan ($25,000 originally) and then after being told by the director the day before the concert that the Chamber had to come up with $20,000 (due to a shortage of ticket sales) or the group would not go on stage so the Board had no choice but to go back to the bank and increase the loan. Further, that Mr. Galloway instructed her to not include the deficit in the 2006 budget because it would make them look bad that they were $66,000 in the hole and that as a Chamber Director, she cannot override what her Board of Directors tells her, adding that Cyndi Williams, former Board member, also knew about the debt incurred from the festival. In regards to hotel/motel tax money spent in 2006, Ms. Horn stated that $203,000 was proposed to be received and that $233,000 was actually received, with the additional $33,000, along with the $58,000 (questioned earlier) being included in the $146,000 that was paid to reduce the debt incurred by the festival, with the loan from the bank being $50,000. Ms. Horn stated that the Board was able to get the former director to pay back $20,000 personally because she signed the first note (personal loan) from the bank without the Board’s permission referring once again to Mr. Galloway’s letter. In regards to the audit, Ms. Horn explained that she cannot choose when it will be done, presenting an audit engagement letter from Karp, Ronning & Tindol, CPAs, stating that the audit is scheduled for May 15th. Further, that the City is audited first and then the Chamber and then any other entities who received funds. Ms. Horn stated that a new Board has been elected and then read aloud a letter from Tim Lovezzola in support of the PACC. In regards to funds for 2006 to be given to the Visitors Center (PCCC), Ms. Horn stated that she sent a certified letter in October of 2006 asking for their budget and quarterly financial statements, which had not been submitted, and on November 13, 2007, another certified letter was sent with no response. This letter stated that funds were being suspended until the Visitors Center’s fulfillment of the contract had been reached. Ms. Horn added that the money was still in the Chamber’s bank account and that she did not receive a copy of the Visitor Center’s 2005 audit until February of this year. Mayor Lamb pointed out the fact that there was a lack of communication between all parties and that this leads to doubt, especially when money is involved. Councilman Wall stated that this money ($28,000) has to be spent within the contract year, reiterating that paragraph #7 in the PACC contract provides for any changes to the budget (Exhibit “A”) be brought to Council for approval and the only time the PACC came to Council last year was for approval to waive permit fees for the Gala. Further, that if Council was made aware of the debt the PCCC had incurred, Council would have worked with them and that keeping Council in the dark was the worst possible thing to do. Councilman Wall stated that there seems to be discrepancies with the 2006 budget and the proposed 2007 budget, mainly in regards to the Centennial banners. Mr. Scheer stated that he has concerns about Mr. Galloway’s letter, asking if the $20,000 repaid to First Chatham Bank was paid by Ms. Minshew personally, which Ms. Horn replied that it was. Mr. Scheer stated that in 2005 there appeared to be unauthorized expenditures and money that was misappropriated and that in 2006 there was a $60,000 deficit that was not noted on the budget. Ms. Horn reiterated the fact that Mr. Galloway stated that it would look bad by putting the money that the Chamber was in deficit, even though she knew that it should have been in the budget. Mr. Scheer pointed out the fact that as long as there were public funds accounted for, the Council cannot enter into any agreement. Further, that at the time the PCCC was approved to receive funds, the agreement provided for a one day’s notice of termination in hopes that the PACC could show Council where the money (2006) had been legally spent, and then Council would have entered into a contract with the PACC. Mr. Hartley suggested the finance chairman on Council should serve on the PACC Board to improve communication, asking that the PACC be funded. Mr. Scheer reiterated the fact that until questions regarding the misappropriated funds are answered (as outlined in Mr. Galloway’s letter), there will be no agreement with the PACC. Further, that the executive director should not have hidden information regarding the deficit. Mr. Hartley stated that the original Board of Directors was appointed in 1999 and was never elected by the membership of the PACC, which is now being done. Mr. Scheer stated that once the PACC was put on notice, the Council has to have proof from a certified public accountant that funds were properly accounted for. Robert Evans, member of the Board and Chairman of the Ethics Committee for the PACC, stated that an information packet was given to Councilman Royal which included the bank statements, etc., assuring Council that this problem will not come up again. Ms. Phelps questioned if Council has the right to approve every budget item and how the Chamber uses the money, stating that the budget of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce is not approved or monitored by the Savannah City Council nor the Chatham County Commission. Further asking if Council thinks the misappropriated funds are what they have approved and how anyone can know what the hotel/motel tax will be each month and expect the Chamber to submit a line item budget. Mayor Lamb replied that Council does not try to control how the money is spent throughout the year. Councilman Wall stated that Council knows the approximate amount of hotel/motel tax to be received and that when the figure exceeds the proposed amount, the Chamber has to submit a budget adjustment. Councilman Seay stated that neither Council nor any staff member is accusing anyone about being dishonest. Further, that the two (2) main responsibilities of Council are to provide for public safety and to be the custodians of public funds and if something is unaccounted for, it is their responsibility to find out where the money went. Barbara Aldrich, member of the PACC, questioned how the members of the Board are elected (by membership), stating the ballots were sent in and at the next meeting, the people voted in were not present. Further, that members of Council think they have the right to choose who is on the Board, while it should be the members who choose. Ms. Horn clarified the statement made by Councilman Wall in regards to the Centennial banners being in the 2006 budget, stating that they are in the 2007 budget which is not being funded. Ms. Horn asked if Council could get the bill paid since the banners accommodate the entire City of Pooler and asked if the billboards could also be paid for. Mayor Lamb stated his appreciation of the work the PACC is doing to resolve these issues and thanked the PCCC for their cooperation. Councilman Allen stated that the proposal before Council tonight to give $75,000 to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, leaving at least $100,000 in funds to be contracted to the PACC once their audit is complete and shows that there are no discrepancies. Mr. Hartley questioned why $75,000 was being given to the Museum, asking that 25% be given to the PACC through the PCCC. Mr. Scheer stated that the PCCC would have to amend their budget, which they have already been asked to do to provide $75,000 for the Museum. Further, that the City has to have a contract in place in order to collect hotel/motel tax funds. Ron Ledford, member of the PACC, asked what needed to be done in order to save the billboards. Cyndi Williams of Pooler Best Western presented concern about the money being given to the Museum for tourism, stating that 33% of the money given to the Museum has to be used for advertising to provide more hotel/motel tax funds. Ms. Williams asked if this amount can be earmarked. Mr. Baxter replied that the money will be contracted through the PCCC and believes the Museum understands how the money is to be spent. Ms. Phelps again questioned if the PCCC was a certified organization to receive hotel/motel tax funds, wherein Mr. Scheer replied that the PCCC was currently registered with the State of Georgia and meeting all requirements. Allison Hartley, resident, addressed Council, expressing her appreciation of Ms. Horn clarifying that the banners were a 2007 budgeted item, requesting that before allegations are made, they are clearly thought about. Councilman Allen asked if the PACC was willing to have the audit performed as soon as possible. Ms. Horn replied that the PACC is ready to go into the audit and that she will try to have the audit started immediately. Mayor Lamb then called for the vote on the motion to approve the amendment to the Agreement with Pooler Crossroads Chamber of Commerce. Motion passed without opposition.
14. Approval of budget adjustment for police department
Mr. Baxter presented this budget adjustment for the police department to increase expenditure account #52.3925 (Crime Victim Fee - Local) by $25,000 and increase revenue account #35.145 (Victim Assist - Local) by $25,000. Chief Chan explained that the police department has been advised to begin collecting a five percent (5%) add-on fee for every traffic citation, not just criminal cases, to be submitted to the local Victim’s Witness Program. Councilman Allen made a motion, seconded by Councilman Royal, to approve this budget adjustment. Motion passed without opposition.
15. Resolution regarding support of Gateway Construction Corporation’s proposed low income elderly housing development
Mr. Baxter presented a resolution (copy attached to and made a part of these minutes) in support of Gateway Construction Corporation’s proposal of a 65 or 68-unit low income elderly housing development which, if approved by the Department of Community Affairs, will satisfy the requirements of the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. Councilman Allen made a motion to approve this resolution. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
16. Resolution regarding Chatham County Recreation Authority Revenue Bonds
Mr. Baxter presented a resolution (copy attached to and made a part of these minutes) regarding the City’s request to have the Chatham County Recreation Authority provide funds for the purpose of financing the construction and equipping of the new recreation park. Mr. Baxter stated that payment will be made to the Authority using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money. Mayor Lamb stated that this in no way ties Chatham County with Pooler’ recreation program, except as a method of funding the new park. Councilman Royal made a motion, seconded by Councilman Seay, to approve this resolution. Motion passed without opposition.
17. Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in regards to the 2007 budget/agreement, I-95 billboards and Centennial banners
Mr. Baxter presented this item for discussion, stating that most of it was heard during Item #13. Robert Evans, Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce, asked Council for assistance with payment of the Centennial banners and the billboards on I-95, as well as with requesting the date of the Chamber’s audit being moved up. Mr. Evans further requested that a councilmember be appointed to serve as an ex-officio member on the Chamber’s Board and attend all meetings, stating that the City and Chamber cannot allow internal separation. Further, that two (2) chambers in one city only represent separation and are totally unnecessary and funding for the Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce is needed. Councilman Wall requested that Mr. Baxter meet with the Chamber to resolve the issue of paying for the banners and billboards. Jack Brewton, resident, reiterated the issue of having a councilmember appointed to serve on the Chamber’s Board. Thomas Horn, resident, addressed Council in regards to the mis-communication and allegations that have surfaced recently, asking the City to work together with the Chamber.
There being no further business to discuss, Councilman Wall made a motion to
adjourn at approximately 8:57 p.m. Motion was seconded by Councilman Stanley and passed without opposition.