2017-11-16 / Front Page

City Council prepares for holidays, discusses projects, rates, expenses

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The Washington City Council announced plans and events for the coming holiday season, heard reports of ongoing projects, and conducted matters of general housekeeping at its regular November meeting Monday night at The Pope Center.

Mayor Ames Barnett announced that in preparation for next Tuesday’s Candlelight Shopping on The Square event, the city’s Christmas tree which will be mounted as usual in the center of The Square, is scheduled to arrive this Friday, November 17. Once up, the tree will be decorated with ornaments made by Wilkes County school children and the lights will be turned on at the beginning of Candlelight Shopping.

During his time of comments, Barnett also informed those in attendance that the city is currently going through the budget process and citizens are welcome to call City Hall with questions about the budget. He also pointed out that a public hearing on the budget will be forthcoming at a later date.

At last month’s request by Councilman Maceo Mahoney, City Attorney Barry Fleming reported on his efforts to research the possibility of forming a citizen-based committee for ethics purposes. He offered three examples of ideas stemming from his research coming from the cities of LaGrange, Tifton, and Dublin. The examples were offered as information only, pending further research.

Councilman Kimberly Rainey asked if any progress had been made on her request from last month to investigate the costs associated with adding one or two law enforcement deputies, specifically for city patrols, to the Sheriff’s current duty roster. City Administrator Sherri Bailey reported that she had not had a chance to pursue the matter, but Barnett said, “We can check that out.”

Rainey also asked that, for the record, her vote in favor of proceeding with the fire station project be recinded.

Councilman Marion Tutt continued in his concern for high utility rates and asked if the expected increase in cost from MEAG would result in a similar increase in the city’s rates. Bailey said at first that the MEAG increase would be offset by a decrease in another area, but after checking, reported that the offset would instead provide only partial relief and that the MEAG increase would still amount to about $180,000.

Tutt praised Bailey and Barnett for their efforts in cutting expenses and spending but said that “an increase in utility rates would be toxic” to his district. He recommended that everything “across the board” be looked at for further ways to cut expenses.

Tutt also questioned the city’s employment policies specifically concerning promotions from within. Bailey enumerated some examples of such promotions and stated that all jobs are open so that anyone can apply. She handed out copies of the city’s employment policies.

The council unanimously approved a temporary pouring license for the Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce for its annual banquet and awards dinner to be held at The Pope Center on January 27, 2018.

Also unanimously approved was the use of The Square by the Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter for its annual bake sale on November 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The council amended its sign ordinance to prohibit internally lit signs in all zoned districts except C-2.

A state mandate that cancer insurance be provided for firefighters was accepted and Bailey reported that the total cost for all city firefighters amounted to only $5,430.

After Barnett announced that the Wilkes Regional Youth Detention Center would hold a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday at 11 a.m., the council moved into Executive Session to discuss a real estate matter.

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