The regular meeting of the Pooler City Council was held on February 2, 2004. Mayor Buddy Carter called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. Present were Councilmen Bruce Allen, Travis Cowart, Jr., Mike Lamb, Wayne Seay, Stevie Wall and Councilwoman Rebecca Benton. City Manager Dennis Baxter and City Attorney Steve Scheer were also present.
The invocation was given by Mr. Baxter and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Councilman Cowart.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as printed upon a motion by Councilman Cowart, seconded by Councilman Lamb, with no opposition.
Report from the Standing Committees:
Councilman Lamb presented bills for payment and made a motion to pay, subject to funds. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
Councilman Wall reported on the community service program and gave the police report, stating that the department responded to 757 calls in January. Fire Chief Jay Hillis presented Miss Morgan Collins, student at Effingham High School who was participating in the “shadow” program. Miss Collins gave the fire report, stating that the department responded to 68 calls and 104 emergency requests.
Councilman Cowart reported that the street and drainage departments have performed routine maintenance.
Councilman Allen reported that the water and sewer departments have performed routine maintenance and that all parameters at the wastewater treatment plant have been met.
Councilman Seay reported that basketball is underway and that baseball and softball signups have begun.
Councilman Seay reported that the employees are doing a great job.
Councilwoman Benton reported that 18 new single family residential, two (2) multi-family and two (2) commercial permits were issued so far this year with 760 inspections performed and gave a recap of the last Planning & Zoning meeting’s minutes.
Mayor Carter presented a plaque to Glenda Champion, outgoing member of Planning & Zoning, thanking her for her service.
Under OLD BUSINESS the following was discussed:
1. Second Reading on amendment to ordinance regarding Pooler Housing Development Authority
Mr. Scheer presented this ordinance to amend the Pooler Housing Development Authority to be now be called the Pooler Development Authority. Councilman Wall made a motion, seconded by Councilman Seay, to approve this amendment on Second Reading. Motion passed without opposition.
2. Approval of resubmitted application for alcoholic beverage license for Sunday Sales for Steve Leonard at Westbrook Country Club’s Recreation Center
Attorney Matt Mills presented this request on behalf of Steve Leonard, General Manager of Westbrook Country Club, for approval to serve alcoholic beverages at the recreation center on Sundays, stating that this request meets the requirements of the city’s ordinance and denial would not be fair. Councilwoman Benton made a motion to table this item until after an executive session to discuss probable litigation. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
Mayor Carter recognized residents from Garden Acres Subdivision who were present at the meeting to express their concern about Garden Acres Utilities. Mr. Frank Love, resident of Garden Acres since 1974, addressed Council, stating that when the subdivision was annexed, the city promised to provide water and sewer service, presenting his concern that their water does not go through a purification process and that there have been several violations found by the Environmental Protection Division as to the quality of the water in Garden Acres. Further, that the City of Pooler should stand behind the residents. Ms. Sheena Turner and Ms. Shirley Kirkland presented Council with information they have compiled regarding (1) the high cost and substandard quality of water the residents are subjected to, (2) how the city can consider supplying water to Bloomingdale, (3) the residents having to make previous attempts to receive answers to their questions and (4) that Garden Acres water when converted would contaminate the city’s water system. Mayor Carter addressed these issues by stating that the water to Bloomingdale has only been proposed to come from the City of Savannah, through Pooler by way of transmission only. Second, that the expansion to the wastewater treatment plant is due to the necessity to upgrade the capacity from one (1) million gallons per day to 2.5 million gallons per day. Third, that any questions should be directed to the city manager and fourth, that he is unaware of any mention to contamination, which Ms. Kirkland replied that it was mentioned in a meeting in 1999. Mayor Carter then explained that Garden Acres Utilities is a private system, that the city is not in the business of competing with private enterprise, that this system was originally planned to service the defined area and at that time Pooler did not have water in that area. Further, that there are three (3) private water and sewer systems in Pooler, with the city having no jurisdiction over, but that the EPD does. Ms. Turner stated that public systems are held to higher standards. Mayor Carter stated that the Council wants to help the residents. Mr. Scheer stated that the Constitution limits the city as to what can be done and recommended that the residents report their complaints to the EPD in writing by way of certified mail. Ms. Kirkland stated that the city promised to provide water and sewer when their subdivision was annexed. Mayor Carter acknowledged the fact that there were two (2) subjects at hand, being what the residents were promised and the health hazards. Mr. Scheer reiterated the fact that the city has no jurisdiction, that the State regulates water systems and that the city can only offer support. Cheryl Hamilton, resident, asked Council for rescue from a promise previously made. Don Mock and Kay Love, residents, presented their concern over the rate increase the residents are being forced to pay. Mayor Carter recommended that Councilman Allen, Mr. Baxter and he meet with representatives from Garden Acres Subdivision to look into the immediate problem to include asking the developer to accept the idea of the this system being incorporated with the city’s system. Maria Scott, resident, questioned why it has to be acceptable to the developer, which Mayor Carter replied that the developer has rights too, and reminded the residents that capital cost recovery fees would have to be paid to make it fair to the other homeowners who have had to pay these same fees. Michelle Dickey, resident, questioned what would be done if the developer gives up his system, which Mayor Carter replied that the city would then take it over.
Councilwoman Benton made a motion to adjourn to Executive Session at approximately 7:02 p.m. to discuss potential litigation in regards to Item #2 under Old Business. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
Mayor Carter called the meeting back to order at 7:07 p.m. and brought Item #2 under Old Business back up for action to be taken. Councilman Wall made a motion, seconded by Councilwoman Benton, to approve the alcoholic beverage license for Sunday Sales for Steve Leonard at Westbrook Country Club’s Recreation Center. Motion passed with Councilman Allen and Councilman Cowart opposing and Councilman Lamb abstaining.
Under NEW BUSINESS the following was discussed:
1. Approval of site plan for relocation of existing drive on Highway 80 for Bank of America
Councilwoman Benton presented the site plan showing the relocation of the existing exit drive further away from the traffic signal to help with vehicular traffic flow in the area of E. Highway 80, stating that the city has received a letter of intent from the Department of Transportation to issue a permit for this relocation. Councilman Wall made a motion to approve this site plan, contingent upon official issuance of the DOT permit. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
2. Approval of final plat/acceptance of performance bond for Stonewater Subdivision, Phase II
Councilwoman Benton presented this request from Fred Williams Homebuilders, Inc. stating that Planning & Zoning and staff have recommended approval and made a motion to approve, contingent upon the city attorney approving the bond. Motion was seconded by Councilman Allen and passed without opposition.
3. Approval of site plan for office building on Lot 5, Pooler Park of Commerce
Councilwoman Benton presented the site plan for an office building on Lot 5 in the Pooler Park of Commerce, stating that Planning & Zoning and staff have recommended approval as well as the Architectural Review Board. Councilwoman Benton made a motion, seconded by Councilman Cowart, to approve. Motion passed without opposition.
4. Approval of revised construction plans for Westside Business Park
Councilwoman Benton presented the revised construction plans for Westside Business Park, stating that Planning & Zoning and staff have recommended approval and that all the engineers’ comments have been addressed. Councilman Wall asked what changes were made. John Kern of Kern-Coleman Company stated that the site was reconfigured due to a road being in a wetlands area. Councilwoman Benton made a motion to approve the revised construction plans for Westside Business Park. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
5. Acceptance of improvements/approval to reduce performance bond for “The Crossing”
Mr. Baxter presented this request from the developer of “The Crossing” stating that inspections have been performed and therefore, he recommended approval. Councilman Wall made a motion, seconded by Councilman Allen, to accept the improvements and to approve the performance bond to be reduced to $339,484.40. Motion passed without opposition.
6. Approval of alcoholic beverage license for Kathy Creech at Piggly Wiggly
Mr. Baxter presented this application for an alcoholic beverage license for Kathy Creech at Piggly Wiggly, stating that Ms. Creech is the new store manager and that Police Chief C. E. Chan has recommended approval. Councilman Wall made a motion, seconded by Councilwoman Benton, to approve. Motion passed with Councilman Allen opposing.
7. Approval of resolution to send newly proposed Charter to Legislature
Councilman Cowart presented this resolution which would allow for the newly proposed Charter to be sent to the Legislature for their approval, stating that the Council has worked on it for two (2) years and that the newly elected councilmembers have had opportunity to review it and give their comments at the retreat held recently and then made a motion to approve the resolution. Motion was seconded by Councilwoman Benton. Discussion followed, wherein Councilman Seay stated that when this proposed Charter was approved in August to be sent to the Legislature, Councilman Cowart’s motion included a provision for a meeting to be held prior to January of 2004 in order to work out any details. Further, that a workshop was held in October with only Councilman Wall, Attorney Travis Windsor, City Clerk Maribeth Lindler and himself in attendance. Councilman Seay presented the items which were discussed in this workshop, one being the idea of holding a special election in the event the office of the mayor became vacant, which was determined that due to the fact that the mayor’s term of office was only two (2) years, it would not be feasible to hold special elections. Second, that the provision regarding the appointment of the mayor pro tem was unclear and thirdly, that the city’s “Code of Ethics” has caused a problem with too many members of City Council having to abstain on certain matters, asking the Council to consider a provision to allow the mayor to vote on all matters, instead of voting just in the event of a tie. Councilman Cowart stated that in 1984, the city (by way of ordinance) had the intent of a city manager form of government, which was fixed several months ago and now what is needed is to codify the way the city has been doing business for the last 24 years. Mayor Carter stated that in 1984, there was a city administrator and not a city manager and that the title was changed, asking Mr. Baxter to recollect why this change was made. Mr. Baxter stated that former Mayor Jack Shearouse believed the term “administrator” sounded like “small town”. Councilman Wall stated his opposition of a city manager form of government and suggested that a provision for committees be placed in the proposed Charter. Councilman Seay stated that if the city is going to have a true city manager form of government, then department heads should be responsible for reporting instead of having councilmembers doing such. Councilman Wall added that Mr. Scheer has come up with language that could be added to the Charter in regards to Council having committees, which Mayor Carter questioned whether or not this is part of any of the model Charters that the Georgia Municipal Association has provided. Mr. Scheer replied that he has not seen this provision in any models, recommending that the city not deviate from the models. Mayor Carter stated that he is opposed to the change in form of government, challenging anyone to recognize and to show him another municipality that has achieved what Pooler has in the last eight (8) to 10 years, that has operated as well as Pooler has, with exceptional growth. Further, that the Council simply needs to define the duties of city manager or city administrator, that what Pooler has is a mayor/council type of government and that the problem which was recognized by the city attorney has been handled. Further, that the people elect the mayor and council, not the city manager, reminding Council of a recent article in the newspaper regarding the City of Savannah and their form of government. Councilman Cowart stated that the city manager is hired by the city council who are elected by the people of the City of Pooler and that if they are unhappy with the city manager’s performance, this person will be replaced. Mayor Carter stated that this is the way the city has been operating, according to the Charter, with the mayor and council delegating authority, and that the day to day operations are being handled by the city manager/administrator. Councilman Wall asked Councilman Cowart if he would amend his motion to add a provision to allow the mayor to vote on all matters to which Councilman Cowart replied that he was not going to do. Councilman Cowart stated that this matter can be handled through an amendment to the Code of Ethics. Councilman Wall clarified that there would not be special elections in the event of a vacancy in the office of mayor, stating that the mayor pro tem would fill this vacancy which Councilman Cowart was in agreement with.
Mayor Carter called for the vote on the motion to approve the resolution. Motion passed with Councilman Wall opposing and Councilman Seay abstaining. Mayor Carter stated his opposition of this proposed Charter.
8. First Reading on amendment to ordinance regarding “Code of Ethics”
Councilman Seay stated that during the retreat held recently, the Personnel Committee was charged with reviewing the “Code of Ethics” and has not yet had an opportunity to do so. Councilman Cowart stated that this item was supposed to be for discussion and that he was going to propose an amendment as talked about at the retreat, but that all the councilmembers had not returned prior the deadline for the agenda. Councilman Seay made a motion to table this item in order to allow the Personnel Committee to review the Code. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
There being no further business to discuss, Councilman Wall made a motion to adjourn at approximately 7:38 p.m. Motion was seconded by Councilman Allen and passed without opposition.