The regular meeting of the Pooler City Council was held on March 3, 2003. Mayor Buddy Carter called the meeting to order at 6:13 p.m. (delayed due to the public hearings held prior). Present were Councilmen Jack Brewton, Robert Bryan, Travis Cowart, Jr., Wayne Seay, Stevie Wall and Councilwoman Billie Tyler. 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 Seay.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as printed upon a motion by Councilman Bryan, seconded by Councilman Brewton, with no opposition. The minutes of the planning retreat on January 26, 2003 were approved as printed upon a motion by Councilman Wall, seconded by Councilman Brewton, with no opposition.
Report from the Standing Committees:
Councilman Bryan 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 and fire reports.
Councilman Cowart reported that the street and drainage departments have performed routine maintenance and that the pre-bid conference for the widening of Rogers Street will be held next week.
Councilman Brewton reported that the water and sewer departments have performed routine maintenance and that all parameters have been met at the wastewater treatment facility.
Councilman Seay reported that the basketball season has ended, with 88 home games being played and that baseball and softball signups continue through Thursday and he thanked the staff on the fine job they were doing.
Councilman Seay thanked the city employees, particularly City Clerk Maribeth Lindler for her help with the Charter.
Councilwoman Tyler reported that 31 new single family residential permits were issued in February, totaling 74 for the year, with one (1) commercial permit being issued for the Floyd Medical/Dental Center. Councilwoman Tyler stated that there is a vacancy on the Planning & Zoning Board and made a motion to appoint Dennis Jones as alternate. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
Mayor Carter read aloud a proclamation declaring March 5th as “Support our Troops Day”.
Under OLD BUSINESS to following was discussed:
1. Second Reading on ordinance regarding nuisances
Mr. Baxter presented this ordinance (which will be cumulative to the nuisance abatement ordinance) regarding nuisances which endanger the health, welfare or good order of the community and to establish a penalty for violations. Councilman Wall made a motion to approve this ordinance on Second Reading. Motion was seconded by Councilman Bryan and passed without opposition.
Under NEW BUSINESS the following was discussed:
1. Approval of site plan for Fortune Plaza
Councilwoman Tyler made a motion to table this item in order to have a traffic study performed at the intersection of Highway 80 and Skinner Avenue. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
Councilman Wall made a motion to move Item #2 to Item #11 and move Item #4 to Item #2.
2. Approval to proceed with invitation to bid for privatization of recreation program
Councilman Seay stated that during the planning retreat in January, the idea of privatizing the recreation program, in an effort to save the city money, was brought up for discussion, and therefore he needed direction from Council to proceed with the bid process. Councilman Wall, at the request of Mayor Carter, stated that he has recently found out that a meeting was held involving Councilman Bryan, Councilman Cowart and Mr. Ike LaRoche, a representative of the YMCA. Councilman Cowart stated that this meeting did take place wherein they discussed the YMCA’s request the opportunity to show the city what they can do for the recreation program and that unless they can provide all the services for less money, the city would not be interested in looking into this matter. Further, that there have been no other meetings since that time and that it was discussed at the retreat in January to review this matter, that the Council has never given anyone direction to pursue bids for privatization and that it would be fine to remove this item from the agenda indefinitely. Councilman Bryan stated that the Council is looking at the opportunity, that it is not a done deal and that he has met with a representative from the YMCA and is looking at this from a business standpoint to see if the program can be done better for less money. Councilman Seay commented on how important a role community support plays in raising children, either through schools or recreation programs and stated that the city cannot put dollar signs on youth and senior citizens. Mayor Carter stated that it is disturbing to know that as much criticism he has taken for holding meetings all the while other meetings were being held by councilmembers. And, also that no one can imagine how many hours the individuals present at the meeting have volunteered at the park, stating that if the city is looking into money matters, how could they have approved to double their salaries. Councilman Brewton stated that this is not the first thing the city has looked into privatizing, noting that several years ago the street and drainage department was considered. Further, that during times of a budget crunch, the city needs to explore not only privatizing the recreation program but also the water and sewer departments to help in balancing the budget to avoid increasing taxes. Councilwoman Tyler stated that the Council is not trying to change and go to the YMCA for the recreation program. Councilman Wall stated that the privatization of the street department was looked into and that it was determined that no one could compete with the way the city was handling the department and reminded everyone that on the city’s web site under recreation it states that it is the “Heart of Pooler”. Further, that he agrees with Councilman Seay that privatizing the recreation program should never be voted on. Councilman Seay gave a brief history of recreation in the City of Pooler, naming an individual (Mr. Gary Goggins, Mayor in the 1920's) responsible for its beginning asking that the city carry on what they began and thanked all the volunteers (present and those who have passed on) for their time, stating that it is their recreation program. Mayor Carter stated that he appreciated Councilman Brewton’s comments about the city’s financial situation and that he agrees that the city needs to look at some areas for privatization, just not recreation. Several people presented their concern over this matter. Darrell Townsend, President of the Pooler Volunteer Recreation Committee, asked for more interaction between the Council and the Recreation Committee. Paul Bragg, long-time resident, stated that there is no other recreation department like Pooler’s and asked that it’s “pride” be kept intact, agreeing that you cannot put dollar signs on children. A resident mentioned that all children get to play whether they can pay or not. Bruce Chamblee and Ben Lewis stated that they moved to Pooler because of the recreation program. Emmitt Ready stated that it is one “happy family” in Pooler and asked Council to keep it that way. Chad Carver reminded everyone of the tradition that was started in Pooler years ago where children learn not only sports, but values and discipline. Georgia Mae Wilson stated that if it weren’t for the older generation of Pooler people (her husband, Red, and Mr. Emory Woodcock who have both passed on and Dot Moss, Delma Cannady and James Byrd) who built the recreation park, it would not exist now. James Byrd reminded Council that several volunteers, including himself, built the park without any money from the city. Christie Sumner stated that due to Pooler’s rapid growth, the city will need the services of the YMCA and eventually another park to meet the needs of the community and asked that this be addressed within the budget. Councilman Bryan asked the citizens present if they would agree to letting the YMCA give a proposal to be discussed at a public hearing. It was the consensus of those present that they would not agree to this. Ronnie Gracen stated that he was helpful in getting the YMCA here, that they are helping to provide recreation to this area, but that they cannot do everything and cautioned the Council to think about any offer, no matter how great it may be. Johnny Doonan reminded the Council of what happened in the past when the elected officials tried to interfere with recreation. Billy Swinson and Al DeFilippis questioned the city’s financial status as it relates to the recreation program and Councilman Bryan responded that the city was in great financial shape. Councilman Seay questioned whether the Council was willing to drop the idea of privatization all together. Councilman Wall made a motion to deny the privatization or action to get bids for privatization of the recreation program. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
3. Approval of sketch plan for design and open space requirements for Quacco Road Subdivision
Councilwoman Tyler presented this sketch plan for the design and open space requirements for Quacco Road Subdivision and made a motion, based on Planning & Zoning and staff recommendation, to approve. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
4. Request from Alltel for water tower attachment
Mr. Baxter presented this request for Alltel to install, operate and remove radio communications equipment on the city’s water tower located next to the fire station. Councilman Wall expressed his concern over what type of equipment would be installed and made a motion to table this item. Motion was seconded by Councilman Bryan and passed without opposition.
5. Approval of recombination of Lots 1 and 2, Ralph E. Phillips Subdivision
Mr. Baxter presented this recombination of Lots 1 and 2 of the Ralph E. Phillips Subdivision. Councilman Wall made a motion, seconded by Councilman Cowart, to approve. Motion passed without opposition.
6. Approval for Municipal Code Corporation to complete Supplement No. 2 of the Code of Ordinances
Mr. Baxter presented a proposal from Municipal Code Corporation to complete Supplement No. 2 of the city’s Code of Ordinances, stating that it will include any new/amended ordinances for the past two (2) years. After discussion, Councilman Wall made a motion to approve. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
7. Approval of budget adjustments for 2002 as required by auditor
Mr. Baxter presented budget adjustments for 2002 which are to cover overruns, reclass expenditures for financial reporting purposes and to adjust for two (2) new funds created due to state requirements. Rick Tindol, CPA, was present and stated that these adjustments were due to state mandates that require a uniform chart of accounts. After discussion, Councilman Wall made a motion to approve. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
8, Approval of budget adjustment for 2003
Mr. Baxter presented a budget adjustment for 2003 to create a budget for payments to Bloomingdale for the four (4) houses in the City of Pooler that are on the Bloomingdale interceptor line. After discussion, Councilman Bryan made a motion, seconded by Councilman Wall, to approve. Motion passed without opposition.
9. First Reading on proposed zoning text amendment regarding non-conforming uses
A public hearing was held prior. Councilwoman Tyler presented this amendment to the zoning text and made a motion to approve on First Reading. Motion was seconded by Councilman Bryan and passed without opposition. Rebecca Benton asked that her comments in opposition of the provision that residentially zoned districts shall not be used for access to uses in a nonresidential zoned district unless permitted in said residential district (that she made in the Public Hearing) be made a part of the record.
10. First Reading on ordinance regarding establishment of Pooler Economic Development Authority
Mr. Scheer presented this ordinance which would establish the Pooler Economic Development Authority which would be comprised of seven (7) members that will have the powers necessary to carry out the purpose of this authority. Councilman Wall questioned the purpose of the ordinance, stating that it is in conflict with what the Savannah Economic Development Authority has been doing for the City of Pooler for quite some, in particular helping get Daimler-Chrysler here. Further, that an economic development authority in Pooler would not have the “political clout” that SEDA has. Mr. Scheer stated that this authority would not be in direct conflict with SEDA and that Pooler would receive revenues which could be used for things like recreation. Councilwoman Tyler stated that this authority would greatly help Pooler. Councilman Wall expressed his concern that this was bad timing. Councilman Brewton stated that he feels that an authority here could do just as good a job as SEDA has been doing. After further discussion, Councilman Bryan made a motion to approve the ordinance to establish an economic development authority in the City of Pooler. Motion was seconded by Councilman Brewton and passed with Councilman Wall opposing.
11. Approval of proposed Charter to be sent to Legislature
A public hearing was held prior where several concerns were presented including what type of government the city has been under since 1984 when the Council adopted an ordinance to provide for a town administrator (changed to the term city manager later) and the fact that the current Charter and Code of Ordinances are in conflict with regards to the powers of mayor and city manager. Councilman Wall presented several items of concern for discussion, asking the Council to hold off on amending the Charter until all questions and concerns are addressed, stating that it has only been worked on for a short time. Councilman Seay stated that he was not aware of any time limit. Mr. Scheer reminded the Council once again of the danger involved with the Charter being in conflict with the Code of Ordinances. Mayor Carter asked Mr. Scheer if this could be fixed immediately by amendment, with (1) the provision that the mayor, with the advice and consent of Council, shall appoint the city manager and give him/her all the duties that are listed in the ordinance and (2) to remove the provision from the Charter where the mayor has the authority to hire and fire any employee. Mr. Scheer replied that it could be done through the Legislature during their current session. Councilman Wall agreed that these changes needed to be done immediately, but he still has more problems with the Charter, which he presented to Council, asking that all questions be addressed prior to adopting the new Charter in its entirety. Mayor Carter then asked Mr. Scheer if he was willing to get a representative from the Georgia Municipal Association here to discuss the Charter and find out what forms of government are available and what the advantages and disadvantages are. Further, that after contacting other municipalities to get copies of their charters, they have said that they should be asking for Pooler’s, seeing how well the city has been doing and that the type of government the city operates under has played a substantial role in making Pooler what it is today. Councilman Wall made a motion to approve the amendment to the Charter to be sent to the Legislature, to read as follows: that (1) the mayor may, with the advice and consent of Council, or when authorized by ordinance or resolution of the council, delegate or assign to a city manager such powers, functions and duties as are conferred upon the mayor by this Charter and such delegation of powers may be terminated, altered, or otherwise changed as the mayor shall deem necessary, expedient, or helpful in the conduct of the affairs of the city and (2) that the provision regarding the mayor having the authority to hire and fire any employee be removed. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay. Councilman Brewton, Councilman Bryan, Councilman Cowart and Councilwoman Tyler opposed the motion. Councilman Wall then amended his motion to approve this amendment (as stated above) to become effective immediately upon the approval of the Legislature. Motion was seconded Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
Councilman Wall made a motion to adjourn to Executive Session at approximately 8:48 p.m. to discuss legal matters. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
Mayor Carter called the meeting back to order at 9:00 p.m.
There being no further business to discuss, Councilman Wall made a motion to adjourn at approximately 9:01 p.m. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.
Two (2) public hearings were held prior to the regular City Council meeting on March 3, 2003. Mayor Buddy Carter called the first hearing to order at 5:30 p.m. Present were Councilmen Jack Brewton, Robert Bryan, Travis Cowart, Jr., Wayne Seay, Stevie Wall and Councilwoman Billie Tyler. City Manager Dennis Baxter and City Attorney Steve Scheer were also present.
The purpose of this hearing was to discuss the newly proposed Charter. Mayor Carter asked how many people were present for this public hearing, wherein 12 raised their hands, and he asked for any public comment. Ms. Rebecca Benton, resident, stated that the city has operated in direct conflict with the Charter and that this needed to be ratified, and that the citizens cannot vote on the provisions of the Charter, they can only vote on what type of government they want. Ms. Benton presented her comments, namely asking that the requirement for the city attorney and municipal judge to be in legal practice for at least one (1) year be changed to a minimum of five (5) years and stated that the section regarding “Submission of Ordinances - Mayor’s veto power” be eliminated, to prevent a dictatorial government, and that the mayor should only be the tie-breaker and urged the Council to approve the Charter as soon as possible. Councilman Seay agreed with Ms. Benton’s comments regarding the attorney and judge’s legal experience and stated that it is his understanding that the veto power is only for ordinances, not a blanket veto power. Mr. Leo McDonald, resident, questioned if the mayor had any veto power presently. Mayor Carter stated that the mayor did not have any type of veto power now, but that some councilmembers want to add it to the new Charter and that it is an effective practice among other municipalities. Further, that the city has been operating under this type of government (mayoral) for quite some time, that the Charter is the most important city document, which the public needs to be educated about, and that the amendment should be a deliberate process and provide for a balance of power. Most importantly, that this should not be rushed into and Council should be very careful when considering amending the Charter. Steve Hartley of The Spirit Newspaper questioned if the ordinance adopted in 1984 changed the form of government. Mayor Carter stated that he has spoken to the people who were mayor and city attorney at that time who said that their intentions were not to change the form of government, that the ordinance was simply to add the responsibilities of a town administrator and to define those responsibilities. Bruce Allen, resident, questioned the most recent changes to the Charter. Councilman Cowart stated that a change was made to the provision that required the mayor to report all activities to council at their next meeting. Mayor Carter read the provision requiring the mayor to be able to attend meetings only with the council’s consent, asking Mr. Scheer if this is legal. Mr. Scheer stated that anything that is put in the Charter is legal as long as it isn’t unconstitutional and that this Charter is very close to the model charter that the Georgia Municipal Association submitted. Further, that he is still concerned that there is a direct conflict between the Charter and the Code of Ordinances as it relates to powers of the mayor and city manager. Councilman Wall asked that the paragraph regarding the mayor having to get the advice and consent of the council prior to holding or attending meetings be re-worded, which Mr. Scheer said the word “consent” could be taken out. Councilman Seay reiterated the fact that everyone had time to comment and that there was never a time frame put on the completion of this Charter. There were questions over the provisions for filling the vacancy of the mayor, which council decided this matter needed to be looked into further, (i.e., special election or appointment by council). Mayor Carter stated that the Charter did indeed need to be modernized, but that the immediate problem of the conflict between mayor and city manager powers could be handled quickly by the Legislature if Council so decides and that he would like to see a referendum on the matter of the type of government the people want. Councilman Brewton stated that the change is needed to bring the Charter and Code into compliance. Mayor Carter reiterated the fact that there is a simple fix to this problem and urged the Council to consider sending an amendment to the Legislature for their approval. Councilwoman Tyler commended Mr. Scheer for finding this discrepancy, stating that the Charter has been worked on for quite some time. Councilman Wall stated that he has several problems with the new Charter and that Council has only been actively working on it for two (2) years.
There being no further business to discuss, the hearing was adjourned at approximately 6:05 p.m.
Mayor Carter called the second public hearing to order at 6:06 p.m. The purpose of this hearing was to discuss a proposed zoning text amendment regarding non-conforming uses. Councilwoman Tyler stated that the Mayor and Council requested that Planning and Zoning review the current ordinance on non-conforming uses and bring their recommendation to them for approval. Ms. Rebecca Benton, resident, presented her concern over the provision regarding residentially zoned districts not being able to be used for access to uses in nonresidential zoned districts unless permitted in said residential district, stating that according to Zoning Administrator Jackie Carter, this has been in effect for quite some time. Ms. Benton stated that property owners are entitled to reasonable access to their property and the city has to provide that and there are many situations where you have to go through residentially zoned districts to get to commercially zoned districts, in particular, the only access to her commercial property is through a residentially zoned district with property below hers being zoned C-1. Further, if the city would like to provide alternate means of access that would be fine, but then stated her objection to this provision of the ordinance and if this is enforced, the city will be taking away any access without just and adequate compensation being duly paid which is contrary to the Georgia and U.S. Constitution. And for the record, Ms. Benton stated her objection to this provision of the ordinance.
There being no further business to discuss, the hearing was adjourned at approximately 6:12 p.m.