Members of the Cartersville City Council approved a slate of “emergency ordinance” amendments at Thursday evening’s meeting in order to bring the municipal government into compliance with Georgia’s pension plan contributions laws.
According to City documents, the 2019 fiscal year budget for pension contributions — following findings from a recent Mauldin and Jenkins audit — contained a shortfall of $904,395.
“In addition, the City did not fund the last six months of fiscal year 2018 properly, which resulted in a $225,670 shortfall,” a City finance department summary reads.
In order to fund the $1.13 million increase in the budget, the City opted to use a mixture of departmental reserves, with the 2019 FY general fund budget being adjusted by $687,790, the City’s electric fund by $104,420 and the municipal water fund by $145,325.
The total approved budget amendment increases the City’s 2019 FY contributions from $2,751,005 to $3,655,400.
Generally, such amendments require two readings before the council takes action. Mayor Matt Santini, however, invoked an “emergency ordinance” motion allowing the council to vote on the proposal following just one reading.
Another emergency ordinance motion was enacted for another agenda item involving City liabilities stemming from pension plan underfunding.
“The total liability for all funds is $1,486,713,” a finance department summary reads. “To fund this contribution amount, the offset will be a use of reserves from all funds, with the exception of the general fund.”
To address the underfunding of pensions, council members also voted unanimously to approve an $892,473.82 loan from the City’s electric fund to its general fund.
“The loan will be paid back to the electric fund within a five-year period — our target pay back is three years or less — pending the availability of cash,” a finance department summary reads. “This transaction involves no expenses. It will simply be a transfer of cash and a due to/due from entered in the accounting record of the general fund and electric fund.”
Elsewhere on the agenda, the council voted 4-1 — with Councilwoman Kari Hodge as the lone “nay” vote — to appoint Tom Gilliam as the city’s new parks and recreation director. Gilliam, who previously served as the City of Canton’s parks and recreation director and was a program coordinator for the City of Milton’s parks and rec department for about five years, succeeds long-time director Gary Anderson, who retired from the City of Cartersville on Jan 31.
The council also heard the first readings of several ordinance revisions, including one that would make the City’s Historic Preservation Commission ordinance less restrictive. City of Cartersville Director of Planning and Development Randy Mannino said, in particular, the amendment seeks to repeal a provision requiring at least one member of the commission to actually live within the historic district.
Another proposed ordinance heard by council would change the City's definition of a “retail cigar shop” so that such businesses would be allowed to sell alcohol as long as 51 percent of its gross sales are non-alcohol retail items.
The council also heard, but took no action on, a proposal that would give the City the ability to suspend or revoke business licenses.
“[Cartersville Assistant City Attorney] Keith Lovell, dealing with the prosecution of City violations dealing with business licenses, it was noted that we don’t have a procedure to suspend or revoke a business license in the City,” Mannino said.
All three of those ordinances are set for a second reading, and a subsequent council vote, at a meeting scheduled for April 4.
Council members also heard the first reading of a de-annexation request from Bartow County, which would essentially see more than 250 acres of land transferred from the jurisdiction of Cartersville to the County.
About 15 years ago the County annexed roughly 265 acres into the City of Cartersville as part of a plan to defeat a regional landfill development along the Paga Mine Road area. Since then, however, Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson said several developers with “mega project” aspirations have expressed interests in acquiring that property.
“More recently, Mr. Jim Jacoby, the Atlantic Station developer, has proposed some ideas for a mixed-use development with some retail and commercial stuff on the north part of the property,” he said. “We really haven’t seen a final concept from them, it’s been kind of evolving, obviously, as they talk to their developers.”
Of the roughly 1,000 acres eyed by Jacoby Development, Inc., Olson said about half is in Emerson, with Cartersville and Bartow essentially sharing equal portions of the remaining property.
“The project isn’t going to work with three different jurisdictions over it,” he said. “If a good project goes forward, we’ll put it all in the City of Emerson’s jurisdiction.”
While the County has gone as far as creating a tax allocation district in and around Emerson to help facilitate groundwork on Jacoby’s proposed mixed-use development, Olson nonetheless said the County hasn't seen much in the way of concrete details on the proposed project.
Still, he said the County plans on preserving about two miles of river frontage, pending the project becomes a reality. He also said the County plans on taking measures that would safeguard nearby communities like the Waterford and River Shoals subdivisions from developmental impacts.
“We’re certainly cognizant of protecting those neighborhoods with anything we would move forward with,” Olson said.
Other items of interest from Thursday's council meeting includes:
— Council members voted unanimously to approve a request from the City public works department to purchase a new trailer-mounted high-pressure sewer cleaner from Adams Equipment Co., Inc. for $74,564.
— Council members voted unanimously to approve a request from the City water department to award WT Construction $41,830 to construct approximately 175 feet of 80-inch PVC sewer main and install two new manholes along Main Street.
— Council members voted unanimously to approve a request from City administration to award Pendley Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. $6,242.45 to repair an HVAC unit at the Bartow History Museum.
— Council members voted unanimously to approve a request from City administration to renew its fiduciary insurance coverage plan with Philadelphia Insurance Companies for $9,887.
— Council members voted unanimously to approve a request from City administration to approve payment of a $5,745 Travelers Insurance deductible invoice, stemming from an October 2017 accident involving a City employee. The unbudgeted item will be paid from the City's property and casualty insurance fund.