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Hobby gives state of city

Perhaps the best illustration of how bad the local economy may have been during the last 12 months is that fact that almost $40 million didn’t pass through local cash registers last year, Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said during the Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast Thursday.

“That shows you what is happening in the community,” Hobby said.

In what some now call the state of the city overview, the city manager said over the past 10 years, the annual revenue growth for the city has averaged 6 percent.

This past year, Hobby said it was flat—or 1.4 percent.

As Hobby painted the picture Thursday, the total city collections for fiscal year 2009 were $1,984,331.55. City collections were down 8.32 percent—or $180,108.22—from the previous year. This means total countywide collections were $4,795,387.99, which were down $398,976.28.

“Total sales lost to the community were $39,897,628.07,” Hobby said in his Powerpoint presentation.

In a broader sense, three cents of the total seven cents collected for every dollar spent in sales in Decatur County is turned back to the county—either for governmental operating expenses (Local Option Sales Tax) and capital projects (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) for the county and its four municipalities, and capital projects for the Board of Education (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

Despite this no-growth in sales tax revenue, Hobby said the city’s budget took that into account, and the city remains fiscally healthy. He said the city has $6 million in unrestricted reserve money, which will remain untouched for this budget year. The city’s new budget year began Thursday.

Despite the economic picture painted by Hobby, he said the city is committed to several projects, which he updated and outlined to the Chamber members.

New projects

Work is proceeding on Phase III of the Bill Reynolds Sports Complex, Hobby said. The complex will include five basketball courts, eight baseball or softball fields and two multi-purpose fields, which could be seen as football or soccer fields.

The second phase of Streetscape to improve the aesthetics and function of downtown streets is scheduled to proceed this year, Hobby said. The streets slated for Streetscape are north West and Board streets that will stretch to Calhoun Street, west Water Street in front of the Courthouse and Firehouse Center, and then east Water Street between Board and Clay streets.

Hobby said project cost includes $625,000 from the state, $165,000 from federal funds and the remaining balance—approximately $487,867—paid for by local funds. JCI Construction of Moultrie, Ga., which was one half of the joint effort that built the new Bainbridge High School, has submitted the low bid of $578,911 on the project, Hobby said.

“We continue to make our downtown a leader in our economy, and the economic engine it has always been,” said Hobby of some of the reasons for Streetscape.

Construction of the $1 million multi-lane “mega” boat ramps—half of which will be paid for by the state’s Go Fish initiative and the other half from local capital money—is expected to start soon. The ramps will include restroom facilities and have six ramps for which boaters may launch from.

The biggest change will be the road that goes behind the Performing Arts Center. That road will be redirected up the hill toward the nature trail, and the extra space left from where the old ballfields were will be parking for vehicles and their trailers.

The last major project the city manager discussed was the third phase of the city’s sewer master plan, which will soon get started, Hobby said. More than 7.4 miles of new sewer lines will be added to the project, six pump stations will be installed and an upgrade done to another pump station.

Hobby said those in the affected neighborhoods will also see their roads torn up, but the good thing will be that those roads will then be fixed and resurfaced.

Work plan

With former City Manager Charles Tyson sitting in front of him, Hobby credited Tyson with the present work mode of the city.

“Plan your work and work your plan,” said Hobby, who said Tyson preached that motto around city hall. “That’s what we try to do.”

For example, the city council said it wants a safe and secure community, and Hobby said to help achieve that, the city needs 13 to 14 people per Public Safety Department shift. Currently, they have nine to 10 people per shift.

Another element of that work plan is bilingual training for Public Safety Officers.