Council discusses ‘getting back to basics’ at retreat

Published 10:42 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This past weekend, the Bainbridge City Council and city department heads discussed “getting back to basics” at the council’s annual retreat at Lake Blackshear in Cordele.
On the first day of the retreat, the city’s department heads presented their Fiscal Year 2016 plans to the mayor and council. Many of those plans revolve around utilizing or upgrading resources the city already has to minimize costs.
Public Safety
Interim Bainbridge Public Safety Director Jerry Carter informed the council about his plans to maintain stability and morale within the department while the city begins its search for a permanent director to take the reins when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
Carter took over the department March 9 after the sudden resignation of former director Eric Miller on March 7.
Carter said that he has been meeting with officers of various ranks, addressing their concerns as he goes. A lot of Carter’s plans revolve around maintaining officer morale and contentment during the transition period to make a new director’s move easier. Carter said he plans to reexamine shift rotations, the hiring process, ways to streamline reports, training deficiencies and staff diversification.
Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said that the city will begin its search for a new BPS director this summer and that he does not plan to conduct a nationwide search.
Community Development
Assistant City Manager Roy Oliver created discussion amongst the council and city staff on upcoming plans with city parks. A big portion of that discussion focused on improving the Earle May Boat Basin area, especially once L&N locomotive 2132 and the caboose are moved.
Some of Oliver’s and his staff’s short-term ideas were to give the animal enclosure a facelift by replacing the chain link fence with a wooden one, bringing in picnic tables and benches and relocating or donating the saw mill pieces to address safety concerns. Oliver also wants to improve the beach area by bringing in fresh sand and installing a volleyball net.
Some of the staff’s more long-term plans are to install a concrete splash pad and extend the playground at the boat basin.
There was also discussion about the city’s Aquatic Center. According to Oliver’s projections, if attendance continues to decline as it has in recent years, the city is looking at more than $400,000 in losses over the next five years due to repair and upkeep. The city is currently considering closing the Aquatic Center and replacing the pool with a splash pad that requires less maintenance.
Hobby said that the city is considering buying a pedestrian bridge to cross the canal at the boat basin, connecting the two pieces of a nature trail. The 120-foot-long wood and steel bridge, owned by a construction company in Savannah, is priced at $18,000 and could be moved in three pieces. Hobby and Public Services Director Steve Winburn are working to see if city staff can install the bridge and double-check that the bridge will follow Coast Guard specifications.
Downtown Development
Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Amanda Glover introduced a potential ordinance that would require downtown vacant structure owners to upkeep the buildings better to prevent severe damage to the buildings and adjoining properties. Councilmembers expressed concern about using an ordinance to dictate what the property owners did with the buildings, but that they see the need to step in some way.
Councilman Don Whaley suggested the DDA slowly begin buying up the 30-plus properties and bringing them to a more marketable state and selling them.
Glover also presented her plan for a downtown building that was recently donated to the city. The DDA wants to repurpose the Rich’s building on Water Street into a downtown information center with public restrooms that would be open during business hours and downtown events.
Glover said that the DDA is also looking at what and how much it would take to expose more of the brick underneath the streets downtown.
Other departments
Public Services Director Steve Winburn addressed the council on the potential need to raise gas and water and sewer base prices to help cover ongoing maintenance fees.
Administrative Services Director Lisa Taylor said that the city would like to add longevity increases for long-time city staff members, providing them with small pay raises.
Julie Harris, community affairs director, informed the council on the various methods she works to keep the public informed, including social media and city website maintenance.

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