SEMINOLE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
CALLED METING WITH CITY OF DONALSONVILLE
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21ST, 2013
The Seminole County Board of Commissioners and the Donalsonville City Council held a Called Meeting on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 in the Beall Center adjacent to the Donalsonville News Office. Those present were County Commission Board Members: Chairman Roger Lane, Vice Chairman Dell Shingler, Brenda Peterson, Darius Culverson, Chuck Orrick, and County Manager/Clerk Paula Granger. On behalf of the City of Donalsonville those present were: Mayor Joe Burke, Lindsay Register, Ed Bond, Charles Barrineau, Mitch Blanks, Annie Calloway, Becky Grantham, City Manager Marty Shingler, and City Clerk Denise Childree. Mr. Dave Wills with ACCG facilitated the meeting.
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Roger Lane.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the invocation was offered by Pastor Barrineau.
Chairman Roger Lane welcomed everyone and Mayor Burke provided the opening remarks. Chairman Lane introduced Mr. Dave Wills of ACCG who facilitated the joint meeting.
The purpose of the joint meeting was to determine if there may be a better way of delivering services, consolidation of various services, or performance of similar job functions between the two governments. Mr. Wills stated there were seven consolidated governments within the state and an eighth one was being formed.
Mr. Wills served full time as Webster County Commissioner Chairman for twelve years. He stated there were times when the city would call and request use of their backhoe, and he always provided assistance when requested, as he considered the city as county taxpayers. Their one police officer was rolled into the Sheriff’s Office and municipal court and county court was consolidated. In 2008, the citizens voted for formal consolidation of the city and county governments. Mr. Wills stated consolidation may not save money. Good leadership is a necessity.
The issue of double taxation was addressed by Mayor Burke. He stated the city was requested to participate in funding the recreation complex; however, the city was already contributing due to paying city and county taxes. Chairman Lane stated he felt city residents use county roads, the health department, etc. County residents are contributing to city taxes every time a purchase is made inside the city limits. It was suggested by Mr. Wills both the city and county take a look at their budgets to determine if double taxation is occurring.
Mayor Burke announced the upcoming retirement of City Manager, Marty Shingler. Mr. Shingler serves a dual role as both city manager and code enforcement. The city will be without a code enforcer and felt this may be an area we could discuss consolidation of the city and county for code enforcement services. Mr. Wills provided some examples of functional consolidation of services and stated the Carl Vinson Institute of Government or private consultants can be hired to assist counties and cities with consolidation.
CP Barrineau shared his concerns regarding the 2003 SPLOST in regard to the city being left out of the SPLOST return relative to fire services. According to CP Barrineau, the $500,000 for EMS & Fire Facilities was intended to include a city facility; however, the city has not received any of the money. CP Barrineau stated this has undermined a major trust. Commissioner Culverson stated he had spoken to the previous Chairman and was told the issue was researched and there was no agreement to provide a facility for the city. County Manager Granger stated SPLOST III shows a balance of approximately $489,000 in EMS/Fire Facilities. CP Blanks addressed the original plan to build a facility that would house EMS and the Fire Department and Vice Chairman Shingler responded a building lot was purchased north of the Courthouse for this purpose. Plans for the EMS / Fire Department were requested and the cost was $1.8 million, far exceeding the SPLOST funds collected. At some point the old GSP building was deeded to the county to house EMS. This changed plans for the EMS/Fire building as previously planned. Chairman Lane stated if the money could be divided up he had no reservations dividing the money with the city based on the LOST formula. Mr. Wills stated this was a violation of law and we should have our county attorney review the SPLOST referendum for clarification. Commissioner Culverson stated the bottom line is having enough manpower to service the entire county and we will never accomplish this with volunteer firemen; fulltime firemen will need to be hired countywide. In regard to the trust issue addressed by CP Barrineau, Mr. Wills stressed the importance of written agreements. Another conversation will need to be held with council and board members appointed by the Mayor and Chairman to revisit the original intentions of SPLOST III and IV. CP Bond stated the goal is to do away with bickering and do what is best for the citizens.
Mayor Burke stated the city maintains all of their streets and the county maintains everything in the unincorporated areas of the county. Could there be a potential cost savings if combined? City Manager Shingler stated the city has a “street department” with three or four who handle water, gas, and sewer as well. There is not much commonality between the two that could be combined. CP Blanks requested combining resurfacing projects between the city and county. County Manager Granger stated the county engineer, Stacy Watkins, had mentioned this and that was the direction we would like to take with resurfacing projects. Mr. Wills recommended talking with our regional commission in regard to regional projects across several counties such as resurfacing.
Mayor Burke stated the Police Department has a high budget; however, their low crime rate justifies it. One concern the city would have with law enforcement consolidation is the lack of control of the Sheriff. Mr. Wills stated the only way the county can create a police department is through a referendum and no counties have done this. A contractual obligation signed by the Sheriff and County Commission is a means of solving the problem with control of the Sheriff as long as it outlines the responsibilities expected from the Sheriff and payment for the services.
No issues were identified regarding the city providing the salary of one jailer or the fee of $8 per day per city inmate.
No issues were identified regarding garbage services, the city provides their own service and the county has a private provider.
Mr. Wills stated there are other counties who have consolidated that would be willing to share their successes and failures. He will forward a list of names to County Manager Granger for distribution. Barriers identified during the meeting relate directly to SPLOST III and must be resolved before addressing consolidation of any services.
CP Blanks and City Manager Shingler discussed the possibly a joint venture hiring a twelve man crew provided from the Correctional Institution at a cost of $40,000 per year. These crews have specialized skill sets; however, there are drawbacks according to Mr. Wills. If it is raining, the liability is too high to transport them, so they do not travel when it rains. They must be present for roll call in the morning and evening; therefore, actual working hours may be four to five hours per day. Depending on the work in other areas, they may be pulled from one job and sent to another county. Mayor Burke stated they had built ten cabins at the State Park and renovated City Hall.
CP Barrineau commended and thanked Mr. Wills for assisting with the meeting. CP Grantham stated regardless of consolidation we should continue to meet, many others agreed to have additional meetings.
Mr. Wills finalized the meeting stating the need for the Mayor of the City and Chairman of the Commissioner to converse as well as the County Manager and City Manager. Building trust will help develop a better relationship between the two governments. Future conversations about functional consolidation will require additional meetings with the city and county.
Chairman Lane thanked Mr. Wills and David Maxwell. CP Bond recognized David Maxwell for the Better Way Project.