Mayor Harrellbr / City growing despite downturn

Published 8:47 am Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bainbridge Mayor Mark Harrell expressed optimism after employees of the city’s Community Development Division made their annual presentation to the City Council on Tuesday night.

The approximately $21 million of new construction done in Bainbridge between October 2007 to September was about the same as the previous year’s, not including the $45 million spent on the new Bainbridge High School, said Building Official Bob Gardner.

However, Mayor Harrell said he thought it was “encouraging” to see the numbers stay consistent despite the economic downturn currently affecting the United States.

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Along with the new state-of-the-art high school off U.S. 84 East, other recent projects highlighted by Gardner on Tuesday night included new multi-family residential developments on Hubert Dollar Drive and the large new Southwest Georgia Farm Credit headquarters off U.S. 27 North.

There were also good signs that downtown continues to be healthy, according to Community Development Director Amanda Glover.

While four downtown businesses closed, eliminating seven jobs, the upside was that 27 new jobs were created downtown during the past 12 months, for a net gain of 20 new jobs, Glover said.

Among the new visual improvements to downtown are the “Eat, Shop, Live and Explore Bainbridge” banners that were attached to some downtown lampposts, Glover said. More banners will go up whenever the city starts the long-gestating second phase of its Streetscape project, which will overhaul sidewalks, lampposts, benches and other aesthetics downtown, she said. The Georgia Department of Transportation is still conducting reviews of the city’s Streetscape plans, since they will affect the appearance of state roadways, but work could begin in early 2009, City Manager Chris Hobby said.

Giant Christmas tree to go in Boat BasinA lighted, 30-foot tall Christmas tree topped by a four-foot star will soon go up in Bainbridge’s Earle May Boat Basin as part of upcoming holiday celebrations.

“Christmas on the River,” one of several holiday-themed events being planned locally, will take place on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 4.

While a ceremony to light the tree will be the highlight, a bevy of church choir singers, festive decorations, hayrides, horse and buggy rides and marshmallow toasting will also help spread holiday cheer. Choirs from four local churches will each sing a song, as will soloists from each church, said Dit Albritton of the City of Bainbridge’s Main Street and Tourism Department.

Other holiday events will include the Holiday Open House in downtown Bainbridge on Nov. 23, the annual Christmas Parade on Dec. 11 and “Christmas on the Square” on Dec. 18.

City manager discusses two bidsAs part of approving the city’s bids and bills, the council OK’d payment of a $9,459.59 bid from Blough Tech of Cairo, Ga., for an ESI-100 phone system to replace an old, malfunctioning system at City Hall.

Hobby said the city had found it necessary to replace the old system when the City Hall switchboard and employees’ voicemail began malfunctioning and no replacement parts could be found for it.

The council also approved a $279,225 bid from Blankenship Contracting of Dothan, Ala., for replacement of a failing pump station on Church Street in West Bainbridge, Hobby said.

The bid was submitted as a change order on the Tallahassee Highway/Georgia 97 South/Alice Street sewer extension project. Hobby explained that was done because Blankenship Contracting had employees in town finishing up work on the sewer extension and the Butler Ferry Community Development Block Grant project. He said Blankenship had agreed to honor the material and labor costs quoted as part of the sewer extension.

Other businessIn other business, the council:

• Approved, by unanimous vote, changes to the city’s zoning ordinance to allow manual, human-staffed car washes as a conditional use in the city’s Neighborhood Business zoning district.

• Adopted, by unanimous vote, an ordinance setting up a identity theft prevention program for its utility billing services. The ordinance was the result of a mandate by the Federal Trade Commission, which had identified certain “red flags” for city officials to look for to prevent identity theft, Hobby said.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, a Wellhead Protection Ordinance. The ordinance sets up wellhead protection zones for the four wells, which provide drinking water for the City of Bainbridge and regulates property uses and conditions that may be maintained within the zones. The ordinance’s text was based on a model ordinance drafted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division, Hobby said.

Bids and BillsBy unanimous vote, the council approved the following bids and bills:

Bids: Two bids of $10,623 and $9,050 from Holiday Designs for decorations associated with large Christmas tree and related display at Earle May Boat Basin on Dec. 4; $88,500 for engineering consulting on planned upgrades to grit removal and aeration systems at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Bills: $5,024 from Bainbridge Machine Company of Bainbridge for work associated with expansion of natural gas line capacity provided to Ergon and American Structural Concrete; $29,177.20 from Decatur County Commissioners for monthly inmate labor and landfill charges; $32,620 from Optimum Solutions of Nashville, Tenn., for new citywide time clock system with handprint recognition; and two invoices of $15,000 and $5,050 from York & Associates Engineering of Bainbridge for professional services rendered for the Tallahassee Highway/Georgia 97 South/Alice Street sewer extension project and professional services rendered for infrastructure improvements of Williams Street, Rambo Street and the neighborhood surrounding 6th Street.