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Council gets down to business with two newly elected members
by Debbie Lurie-Smith
Jan 11, 2010 | 3129 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Gus Wilson (seated at bench) and Councilman Russell Thompson (second from right) took their positions at their first council meeting Monday.
Mayor Gus Wilson (seated at bench) and Councilman Russell Thompson (second from right) took their positions at their first council meeting Monday.
Gray’s first city council meeting of 2010 is history with a new mayor and one new council member on board. Mayor Gus Wilson called the meeting to order with District Two Councilman Russell Thompson taking his seat, replacing former Councilman Ronnie Miller. Wilson started the meeting by dealing with two items of old business.

Councilman David Tufts asked that the issue of speed breakers on Old Clinton Road, which was resur rected from last month’s meeting, be tabled to allow time to contact other cities and look at their policies.

Tufts said he would like to know both the regulations and what types of speed bumps are being used. He said if speed breakers are installed, he would like them to be compatible with the neighborhood. The council agreed to table the issue.

Wilson asked that the increase of garbage rates be tabled until more research can be done on the way the city is being billed by Advanced Disposal. He said the city lost $10,000 between what was charged to the cus tomers and what the city paid the company last year. The mayor said the proposal of raising the rate per cart from $8 to $8.50 for residences will still leave the city $3,000 in the hole.

“We don’t need to be run ning any department in the red,” he stated.

Wilson said the commer cial side of the invoice is what is in question. He said the charge for dumpsters is not consistent.

Councilman Terrell Fulford said the 50 cent increase was supposed to take effect this past summer but did not. City Superintendent Decius Aaron said commercial customers should be billed for what the city pays for their service, but the mayor said, from what he saw in the December bill, that is not happening.

“We don’t want to raise the rate 50 cents this month and have to come back and raise it again,” Wilson said.

City Attorney Joan Harris said the real problem is that the city cannot find a signed contract with the company. Councilmen voted to table the issue until further research can be done.

New business

New Jerusalem pastor James Smith asked for the council’s endorsement of a Community Development Block Grant the church is applying for to create a recre ation and educational facility for youth. The Campus Club program has been in opera tion since 1994 and has been successful in deterring crime and boosting test scores.

Smith said the plan began as an after school program but has grown to become an educational program. He said he has the support of the Jones County Board of Education, and parents are anxiously waiting. All that is lacking is the funding. He asked the city be a partner by endorsing the concept with a letter to be included in the grant application.

Smith said the grant is already written and is ready to be submitted.

The council voted unani mously for Wilson to sign a letter of endorsement.

The mayor entertained a first reading of an ordi nance concerning dis tances between establish­ments serving alcohol and churches. Harris explained that the ordinance will bring the city in line with the state ordinance.

The next order of busi ness was the appointment of a committee to appoint the council members who will be serving on the city com mittees. Tufts, Fulford, and Mayor Pro Tem Loretta Lipsey were selected to serve on the committee.

Resolutions for the renewal of contracts for Gray Station Better Hometown and city prosecutors Newberry and Newberry were adopted. Fulford abstained from the GSBHT contract because he is chairman of that organi zation. Thompson abstained from both of the votes because he did not have the opportunity to read the con tracts before the vote was taken. At the conclusion of the meeting, Thompson asked that any contracts, ordinances, or resolutions be available the Friday before the meetings to give council members the opportunity to read the documents before voting on them.

The alcohol license for Anabel’s Bistro, which is a new business that is plan ning to open in the shopping center on Pecan Drive, was tabled until the ordinance for distances from churches is adopted.

The owner said the bistro will be a small upscale res taurant that will offer fine dining at reasonable prices. She said she and her husband have lived in Jones County for three and a half years and have experience working with people and in the restau rant business. She said she wants the alcohol license in order to serve wine with the meals.

Wilson asked the date of the committee meeting be changed because of a con flict with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The meeting was changed to Jan. 19, and a called meeting was sched uled prior to the meeting.

Wilson asked about the progress of the city charter, and Harris reported a draft is finished with the exception of a few items that need to be decided by the council. She said copies of the draft will be available to council mem bers this week.

Committee reports

Lipsey said the balance in the General Fund is $600,068 and suggested $200,000 be placed in a certificate of deposit. She said the best interest rate she found was 2.15 percent at State Bank. Council members agreed to purchase the CD.

Lipsey said the city’s tax digest is $931,000, and to date, $364,000 or 39.1 percent of city property taxes have been collected.

Aaron said material is being delivered for a water main project on Turnerwoods Road. He said residents have been notified, and work will begin as soon as the weather allows. Aaron also told coun cil members that filters at the city’s water plant need to be replaced. The plant was built in 1956, and the first step is finding the filters. He did not know the cost of the replacement.

The superintendent said the city continues to look for additional water sources. He said two new wells came on line last month, but two oth ers had to be taken off line.

The city has been buying approximately 30,000 gallons of water per day from the county. Aaron said the city is looking in new areas for wells.

Wilson said he is looking into the problem of the con dition of sidewalks at the courthouse. The sidewalks were replaced two years ago as part of a Department of Transportation drainage proj­ect, but the agency is not tak ing responsibility for needed repairs.

Wilson said he is also investigating the possibility of moving municipal court to the Gray Police building to alleviate an ongoing prob lem of parking at City Hall when the court is in session. The mayor said Police Chief Adam Lowe is talking to con tractors to get an idea of the cost finishing a room at the police station to be used for the courtroom. Wilson said the parking issue was one that he found out about dur ing his campaign.

Fulford said he would like for department heads to revisit the issue of employee’s salary caps. He said raises are already in place this year, but he would like the figures ready before budget time.

Lowe said the super speeder law took effect Jan. 1 but creates no additional work for local departments. He said, when the citations are turned into the state, the offenders who are ticketed for speeds over 85 mph will receive a bill for $200. He said the charge is a flat fee, and if offenders do not pay the fee, they will lose their license.

The chief also announced that MADD will be donat ing two Alco-Sensors to the department.
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