Mayor Reynolds gives Rotarians a State of the City report

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds delivered a message of love and hope at the Valentine’s Day Rotary luncheon Tuesday.

He cited the accomplishments and challenges of the City over the past couple of years, indicating the major accomplishment was overcoming the challenges the City had with the County in former years. “Thankfully, that is in the past,” he said, as he enumerated the areas in which the two governments are now working cooperatively to consolidate services and save money. Among those are Animal Control, Code Enforcement, Mutual Aid, and natural gas services.

Reynolds said all of those services have now moved into City Hall offices, which creates a convenient one-stop shop process for the public.

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He also cited the work recently completed when the City, County and Memorial Hospital all worked together to support a new bond issue that will enable the hospital to achieve some stability. “I have full confidence that will be good for us in every way. It is a critical part of industrial development. We must support the hospital.”

The City, County and Hospital have also entered into a HealthCare Cooperative, whereby all employees are under the same healthcare plans. “It is showing benefits already, as we have seen financial savings. We are below budget on healthcare for the first time.”

A major challenge for the city has been the repair of the sewer breach caused last year at the sports park by floodwaters. Reynolds said it has been an unexpected large expense, and although they were able to get FEMA money to help reimburse the repairs cost, they still have a ways to go to make up for the costs.

“It helped us recognize the need to continue to grow and fund the city services.”

The City has been very dependent on local sales taxes as an income source, but the collapse of the recession and other causes have reduced sales tax collections.

“The biggest impact has probably been Internet sales. Even when Internet sites charge sales taxes, we are not seeing them. We have to shift away from sales taxes as our major source of income.”

Two changes already made are to the millage rate and the water billing. A change in vehicles has also been initiated. The City is now leasing new trash trucks and police cars instead of purchasing them. At the end of the lease the vehicles are swapped out and the City does not have to pay so much to maintain them.

Planting for the Future is a campaign to replace some of the trees and cleaning up park areas. Residents can make donations for that purpose. “We are using local dollars to reinvigorate our parks and trees.”

The chemical fire of 2016 made the City more aware of the responsibility to fight fire with foam. By working with Colonial Pipeline, the City has now been provided with excess foam and given a truck and trailer for that purpose.

“The newly organized Recreation Authority is making a big impact and moving forward. That is an area where we can continue to see improvements.” He also praised the creation of the drive-thru Christmas lights at the Boat Basin park, saying it brings people out together. “It is a good activity and one we are wanting to expand.”

One area the City has been unable to address is the paving of streets. A County-wide TSPLOST is being considered, where a percentage would go for resurfacing the roads. Although the local sales tax receipts have gone down, Reynolds says we are better off than some other cities due to our regional shopping attractions.

One area the City will begin to focus on is the issue of neighborhood blight, especially burned out houses. They are  hampered by the fact that any property condemned or seized by the City becomes the responsibility of the City. There are also very restrictive imminent domain laws imposed by the State.

While the unemployment rate continues to be high for the region, Reynolds expressed optimism. “We have had some good opportunities lately…..Nothing I can talk about, but let us all be hopeful.”