Called Council Meeting
December 21, 2007
The meeting was called to order by Mayor Tipton who explained the purpose of the called meeting was to discuss the fire protection contract and for an executive session regarding acquisition of real estate.
The Mayor recognized Fire Chief Tyler who advised council that the questions that had been raised several months ago related to the pension funds for firefighters had nothing to do with the department’s qualifications as a fire department and stressed that it has met ISO’s requirements for certification. Chief Tyler stated that the fire department has a 501C-3 designation from the IRS.
The council reviewed the 2007 expenditures and projected 2008 budget figures provided by Chief Tyler who stated that the fire department’s operation was based on a calendar year. The Chief pointed out that there was a shortfall in 2007 of approximately $11,000 due, in part, to the $12,500 that was the fire department’s participation in the grant for the upgrade to their radio/pagers. Chief Tyler advised council that the fire department would also be participating in a grant in 2008 for the purchase of additional radio/pagers at a cost of $11,500 to the department. Chief Tyler commented that with the installation of traffic signals in the near future, it would be possible for the fire department to add boot drives as a source of revenue for use in fire prevention education efforts in the City.
The 2008 budget proposed by the fire department included $65,000 from the City for the fire protection contract as well as $100,000 in SPLOST funds that the fire department expects to receive from the City. Mayor Tipton and councilmembers reviewed and discussed various line items in the budget with Chief Tyler. During these discussions, it was noted by Attorney Dickey that there are very specific guidelines on purchases made from SPLOST funds and since the monies were being distributed to the City of Bloomingdale, the City is responsible for the proper accounting of all expenditures.
Councilman Strozier stated that when the fire protection contract was discussed during preparation of the 2006/2007 budget, council had agreed that it was being approved with the stipulation that there would be settlement of the property ownership issue before this budget year and asked about the status of this matter. Councilman Strozier expressed his concern about a 62% increase in the fire protection contract with the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department. Councilman Strozier pointed out that after a presentation from Southside Fire Department that had been set up by Chief Tyler, he had, at the Mayor’s request, met with Southside about providing fire protection to the City with the use of our current volunteers, but no action had been taken on this issue. Councilman Rawlings questioned ever hearing the results of the meeting and Councilman Strozier stated that he had given the information to the Mayor and had also provided a report of the information to council. Councilman Strozier reported that Southside was willing to provide fire protection service in Bloomingdale for $40,000 for the first year and after that they would operate on subscriptions.
Mayor Tipton asked some questions related to the financing of the fire truck and the cost of insurance. The Mayor was reminded that the insurance for the four City owned vehicles was to be reimbursed by the fire department and this year’s cost was about $5800. The Mayor asked Chief Tyler about the current need for additional equipment and was advised that the department was alright now, but would probably need something in the next five years.
Councilman Ray expressed his concern about increasing the fire protection contract amount mid-year and did not feel the City had a surplus of an additional $25,000 in its current budget. Councilwoman Winn and others questioned the increase in the middle of the City’s fiscal year. Chief Tyler stated that this information had been submitted last February when the fire department agreed to accept the $40,000 in the 2006/2007 budget and pointed out that the department had to take out a loan to cover shortfalls in 2007. Chief Tyler was questioned as to why this problem wasn’t brought back to the City before a loan was obtained and he stated that the members of the department felt it would be better to borrow the money. The Mayor expressed his concern that Chief Tyler did not come back to the City because this had been discussed as an option when the previous budget was approved. City Administrator Brady asked Chief Tyler how a volunteer fire department was able to obtain a loan and Chief Tyler advised him that he had loaned the fire department the $17,500 through a contract agreement.
The Mayor pointed out that the current contract extension expires at the end of December and asked council for their input on the department’s request. Councilmembers expressed concerns about the increase in the contract coming from a budget that did not include surplus funds. Council discussed options for obtaining additional funds to use toward fire protection costs and since Bloomingdale does not have City taxes, Councilman Ray stated that the only way would be either by subscription or a user fee. Councilman Strozier pointed out that the addition of a user’s fee had also been discussed during last year’s budget preparation. Attorney Dickey stated that he had a user fee ordinance he could make available to council for their consideration. Chief Tyler was asked who compiled the figures that were presented to council and he stated that they had an outside firm that prepared their audit, but he had compiled the budget using a QuickBooks program. Councilman Strozier noted that there had been discussions for ten or twelve years about the City taking over the operation of the fire department, but for the City to be able to obtain the funds needed to expand or keep the program going we must have ownership of the property with control of the departments expenditures. The Mayor asked Chief Tyler if the department was willing to work with the City toward this goal and was advised by Chief Tyler that there were some members that were adamant about maintaining their current status as a volunteer department outside of the City’s control. Mayor Tipton asked Attorney Dickey for direction on the preparation of the contracts on the property ownership transfer. Attorney Dickey reminded him that a meeting had been held between the City and the fire department in which they presented several conditions related to the property transfer, but legally, the City could not agreed to most of them. Attorney Dickey stated that he had made several attempts to reach their attorney to discuss these issues, but had not been successful. Mayor Tipton stated that a meeting between both attorneys needed to be held to see if the issues could be resolved. Councilman Waller asked if Chief Tyler felt the members of the department would agree to the City taking over the property. The Chief indicated that he was only one member and could only speak for himself, but stated that some members were not willing to release the property. Councilman Waller commented that if that was the case then the City was wasting time trying to work out the property ownership issues.
Councilman Strozier asked if the City could extend the current fire protection contract for an additional six months. Attorney Dickey stated he would have to check on the length of the extensions allowed by the contract, but if both parties agreed he felt sure something could be worked out. Councilman Strozier made a motion to extend the current fire protection contract with the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department until June 30, 2008 with a 10% increase and Councilwoman Winn seconded the motion. Councilman Strozier pointed out that the increase would provide an additional $4,000 to the department between now and the end of June. Mayor Tipton asked Chief Tyler if the fire department would agree to this extension and increase. Fire Chief Tyler stated that he didn’t see how this could work for the fire department. Councilman Ray stated that he felt the City would be able to come up with the $4,000 increase and several other members agreed, however, when Fire Chief Tyler insisted that this proposal would not work for the fire department, Councilman Strozier withdrew his motion and discussion on this matter was closed. Mayor Tipton advised Chief Tyler that he would like to talk with him after the meeting adjourned.
Mayor Tipton reported that an executive session had been requested to discuss possible acquisition of real estate. Councilman Ray made a motion to adjourn into executive session, Councilman Strozier seconded the motion and it passed with affirmative votes from Councilmembers Ray, Strozier, Waller and Winn. Councilman Rawlings voted against the motion. Note: Councilman Rawlings left immediately after the executive session. At the conclusion of the executive session, Councilman Strozier made a motion to return to the general session and to execute the affidavit as required by the Open Meetings Law and make it a part of the record. Councilwoman Winn seconded the motion and it passed with four affirmative votes.
Mayor Tipton recognized Pat Gaddy with Thomas & Hutton Engineering who presented information to council on the LDA permit needed for the clearing of the City-owned property off Wildcat Dam Road. This matter was related to the executive session issues and council was advised by Attorney Dickey to discuss it during the general session. After review of the information, Councilman Strozier made a motion to authorize City Administrator Brady to work with Mr. Gaddy on an additional services agreement for Thomas & Hutton to prepare the plans that would be needed to obtain the LDA permit. Councilman Ray seconded the motion and it passed with four affirmative votes.
Being no further business, Councilman Ray made a motion to adjourn at 3:15pm. Councilman Waller seconded the motion and it passed with four affirmative votes.
Mayor Tipton and Councilmembers Rawlings, Ray, Strozier, Waller and Winn were present at the meeting.
Note: Section § 50-14-1 of the Official Code of the State of Georgia Annotated requires that the minutes shall, as a minimum, include a description of each motion or other proposal made, and a record of all votes. These minutes meet the minimum requirements. However, in an attempt to provide as much information as possible to the citizens, the recording clerk has included additional background data and discussion on the subjects presented to council. The statements of individuals are not verbatim and may be summary in nature.