November City Council Meeting

Published on 21 November 2022 at 10:06

The council meeting was held on Nov 14, 2022


Present were Mayor Bill deGolian, Councilmen Anderson, Cullars, Hill, Mahoney and Wagner. Councilman Denard not present in person but was on speaker phone.


Meeting Minutes


August minutes were approved. DeGolian said he wanted to strike “extraneous comments” in administrator action topics regarding utility liens in the September meeting minutes. He said the comments are “not necessary” and it is only necessary to show actions that were taken. Cullars said it’s part of the record and should be kept in the minutes. DeGolian disagreed and said some of it wasn’t “really necessary.”


Minutes were approved for the August, October and November 2nd special session meeting to adopt the proposed millage rate. DeGolian said the minutes for September meeting and striking the comments he suggested will be tabled until the next meeting, therefore September minutes were not approved. The Georgia Open Meetings Act (OMA) requires minutes to be open for public inspection by no later than the next regular meeting, the process for amending meeting minutes is a matter or city council’s rules for procedure.



Public Comments


Angela Booker reminded the council they said they would lower utility rates at the first of the year and wants to ensure they are on track. She also said the council has been having budget meetings and they are to be open to the public but the public hasn’t been made aware. The mayor has stated that there is to be no discussion or response from council during public comments. I asked Angela Booker if her questions have been answered and as of 11/21/22, they had not been.


Mayor Topics


DeGolian began to speak and Cullars said the mayor had nothing listed under Mayor Topics on the agenda (see agenda here). There were no topics listed. Cullars reminded deGolian they are not to talk about items not listed on the agenda. DeGolian argued that he can. Cullars made a motion to stop the mayor from talking about things not on the agenda. Anderson then said the mayor is really talking about announcements rather than proposing something for action. He said it doesn’t fall into discussion topics. Cullars reiterated the rules enacted by the council are that every agenda item must be proposed prior to the agenda approval and if they no longer want to follow that rule, a motion needs to be made to change it.  A motion was made  to allow the mayor to discuss “things coming up”. Mahoney said, it’s important to be consistent and that the rule is that if a council member or mayor want to talk about anything, it must be added to the agenda prior. “If it isn’t done for everyone, it’s not consistent” he said. The mayor said he is announcing upcoming events. Mahoney said the agenda was approved and there were no topics listed by the mayor.  deGolian said  “We are getting sidetracked on chicken crap.” Denard, Anderson and Wagner approved a motion made for the mayor to be able to share topics even though they are not on the agenda. Cullars, Mahoney and Hill opposed the motion and the mayor broke the tie. Cullars said the mayor can’t break the tie on his own motion and the mayor responded “I am making my comments.”  I have requested clarification on the council rules pertaining the agenda topics from administrator deBin. The Open Meetings Act does allow for topics to be added to the agenda that "become necessary to address during the course of the meeting." The process for adding these items is dependent on the council rules.


The mayor went on to share updates on the Gordon Street School saying it will be designated as a historic property in peril which will assist with the ability to get funding. He congratulated the high school football coach, he said he will be having a mayors town hall on December 1st to discuss whatever topics the citizens would like. He also said the entity that was interested in purchasing the museum, is no longer interested so it doesn’t look like there will be any changes at the museum.


City Administrator Topics


City administrator Jerry debin recommended approval of an IPT (inter participant transfer) agreement. Cullars said they (council members) only recently received the document. Denard made a motion to approve the agreement and Wagner seconded. Cullars asked deBin to explain to the public, what the IPT is. DeBin explained it as “the way MEAG takes power on behalf of our customers” He provided an example, if an industrial customer uses more power than projected, MEAG can charge a different rate. The city averages a $300,000-400,000 year end settlement with MEAG. The agreement could save the city about $340,000. Cullars clarified “so it’s a win win for the city?” DeBin confirmed it is a good deal for the city and that it “strengthens the cities net position.” The council voted unanimously to approve.


DeBin made a recommendation to appoint a realtor to assess selling the TASK building at 213 Hospital drive in Washington. Ken Parris, real estate broker bid 5% commission and deBin suggested the approval of Parris to handle the sale of the building.  Wagner made a motion to put a 1 year limit to the contract. The motion was approved.


Councilman Topics


Cullars brought up concerns at the housing authority and showed photos of the Washington Heights building. He said the photos show rooms full of trash which is a fire hazard and peeling paint. He said it makes him doubtful inspections are happening properly. He suggested reassessing the board members and the director of the housing authority. The mayor said he is open to recommendations from the council for appointments to the housing authority board. Mahoney suggested the council sit down with the board to have a discussion prior to making recommendations of appointments.


Cullars also brought up a licensing issue with the Martha and Sam’s venue. The owner would like a liquor license even though the license had been revoked prior because of the actions of tenants she rented to. Cullars asked if there was a roadmap for her to obtain a new license. The consensus was that there is nothing prohibiting her from applying for a license.


Cullars asked about the $55 utility non-payment cutoff fee. DeBin said it’s applied on the 22nd of the month even if the customer pays on that day and that it was implemented as a “dis-incentive” to prevent people from letting their bill become late. Anderson asked if there is data to support that the fee is having the impact they had hoped. DeBin said when he started in his position there were more than 100 on the cutoff list every month but now there are around 30. He said these are “frequent flyers.”


Cullars also asked about the status of the MLK memorial drive sign and deBin said the production of the sign is on track.


Mahoney asked for an update on Project Sunny. DeBin said there are no updates on the status of the project. Mahoney asked about the water pumps that were purchased and deBin said they are in process of being installed. Mahoney went on to say it has been almost a year since Project Sunny has updated them and he has heard the business is no longer coming to Washington. He said the city has spent $1.2 million on a company that said they would come to Washington if the city spent money on pumps that can pump millions of gallons per day and it was a waste of money. DeBin said that is not correct and that there was no guarantee the company was coming to Washington and that nobody in economic development can guarantee anybody who is interested, will follow through. He said it was explained to the council that the pumps were installed in 1977 and that they were past their life span and the city needed them regardless of Project Sunny.  Mahoney said the subject of pumps being outdated was never mentioned until Project Sunny showed interest and that ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds were used to purchase the pumps and that money could have been used in ways that better served the community. He said the pumps also could have been financed and that the need to purchase the pumps was presented in conjunction with Project Sunny. DeBin said “there are very few things in our community we could better invest in than these pumps.” DeGolian said it was time to move on even though that they may disagree on the purchase of the pumps.


Mahoney made a motion to plant fruit trees in city parks. He said it will help improve engagement and activity in the parks and the fruit would be free to the citizens. DeGolian said he thinks it’s a great idea. Wagner said the extension office needs to be spoken to in regard to the care of the fruit trees. Mahoney said plants on the square are watered and cared for so it shouldn’t be a problem to do the same with fruit trees. DeBin said there is a tree board and it would be good to utilize their expertise on where to place and how to care for the trees. He said he will bring the issue to the tree board.


Mahoney suggested prorating liquor licenses rather than a yearly fee. He said this will encourage more people to start businesses in Washington. Wagner said he agrees and that it should be on a quarterly basis rather than monthly. The motion to prorate monthly was passed unanimously.


The council voted to go into executive session for a personnel matter. The motion was approved and the public meeting was adjourned.

Reported by Michelle Chaffee

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Cynthia Uhrich
a year ago

The reason items need to be put on an agenda is so that THE PUBLIC can be made aware of what topics will be discussed--and then if they would like to attend the meetings in which certain topics are to be discussed, they may do so. I believe it is incorrect to allow the Mayor to be the "tie-breaking" vote on a motion he has made. PLEASE tell the Mayor that procedure must be followed and that his position does not grant him unlimited power to not follow protocol. He serves THE PUBLIC, and topics he wishes to address are to be made public and put on the agenda. Period. That's not up for negotiation. ALSO: It is unclear if Angela Booker's reminder about the lowering of utility rates is on track. Did anyone on the council respond to this? WHY have the dates/times of the budget meetings not been made public? Transparency by the City Council is essential in ensuring trust with the community. Do better.