Citizens voice concerns about impact of industries and funding for Jim Battle Park
Mayor Buddy Duke called to order the Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, meeting of the Adel City Council.
Council Members present were Terry McClain, Walter Cowart, Celestine Hayes, and Jody Greene. Greg Paige was absent due to illness.
Others present were City Manager Mark Barber, City Clerk Rhonda Rowe, Police Chief Chad Castleberry, City Attorney Tim Tanner, members of staff, and the public.
Councilman McClain gave the invocation, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Approval of minutes
Councilman Greene made a motion to approve the minutes of Sept. 5, 2023, as presented. Councilman McClain seconded. All were in favor.
Ordinance #23-06, rezoning property of SOGA Properties located at 1002 N. Hutchinson Ave. from RP (Residential-Professional) to GB (General Business), was read for the second time. The rezoning was requested in order to construct a metal building on an existing slab.
Councilman Greene made a motion to adopt the ordinance. Councilman McClain seconded. All were in favor.
Ordinance #23-07, rezoning property of Earl Stone located on West Fourth Street, near the intersection with West Mitchell Street, from GB (General Business) to WLI (Wholesale Light Industrial), was read for the second time. The rezoning was requested in order to construct storage units. Councilman McClain made a motion to approve the ordinance. Councilman Cowart seconded with all in favor.
Tax millage rate ordinance
Ordinance #23-05, establishing the 2023 ad valorem tax rate at 6.000 mills, was read for the second time. Councilman Cowart made a motion to approve the ordinance. Councilman McClain seconded. The decision was unanimous.
Adopting a rate of 6 mills will generate a $1,051,593 tax levy, which represents an increase of $176,141 as compared to last year, according to city officials. They say the new general fund budget can be balanced with 6 mills for the property tax rate.
The net Maintenance and Operations (M&0) millage rate will remain the same as it was in 2022. The tax bill on property valued at $100,000 will be $204, for example.
Electric Dept. bids (pole mount transformers)
Bids were received for pole mount transformers needed for inventory and were as follows: Gresco, $27,090; and Irby, $36,525. The city staff recommended acceptance of the low bid.
Councilman Greene made a motion to approve acceptance of the low bid from Gresco. Councilman Cowart seconded. The motion passed.
Councilwoman Celestine Hayes asked when this will be in effect, as she didn’t think the City could get poles. City Manager Mark Barber explained this will replenish the inventory lost during the recent storm.
Water well repairs
Mark Barber advised that the City experienced pump issues with well #6 located on Bozeman Road. “Since we already had a crew in place working on well #11, they were able to quickly respond,” he said. Woodrow Sap Well Drilling pulled the pump and went through a complete inspection of the pump, motor and column. The cost was $11,850.
Given the urgency of the repair, normal procurement policies were not followed, Barber said. “We have received the invoice, but it has not been paid.”
Councilman Greene made a motion to approve payment of the invoice for emergency repairs. Councilman McClain seconded.
Councilwoman Hayes questioned the location of Bozeman Road. There was no further discussion, and the motion was unanimously approved.
Dr. Treva Gear presented a letter to the elected officials and staff serving as an official complaint against Global Biomass and Energy, located at the former Del Cook property. She said they have debris and wood products that have expanded since August 2022 when a Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) complaint was filed. She noted the owner, Scot Corbett, had been reached out to in April, May, and August.
There are snakes, rodents, and pests as a result of the debris, which is located adjacent to a federal housing authority, Dr. Gear said. She asked the Council to enforce the nuisance ordinance and noted the sections of violations.
Dr. Gear further added that Corbett had stated he has been taking debris from the City of Adel at no cost. She said she hoped that “would not hinder the City from reacting to protect the community” and hoped to have a response in writing within three days.
City Manager Mark Barber requested a response period of 10 business days. Dr. Gear was in agreement.
Dr. Gear also expressed her appreciation to those who voted in favor of the moratorium on bitcoin mining operations. She said that during the six months, she hoped they would consider to protect further.
“This is an energy intensive industry that does not give anything to the community,” she said. “It does not provide jobs, and we had to go searching for other communities to help provide that energy. It caused a bunch of noise and abuse, and the only reason we could get rid of them is because they decided not to pay their bill, despite the Tiverons [whose residential property was near the Blockstream units on Highway 41] coming up here since 2019 and 2021 to complain about this issue. That’s a shame.
“When we talk about praying for wisdom and knowledge to help people, come on now!” She asked if Blockstream had paid their bill. She said she was sure they owed millions: “That’s what these companies do – come into the area for a couple of years, use up the energy, soak up the resources, and leave. Now there is another company pending, Clean Spark.”
She added that she saw the aerial photos of what Global Biomass and Energy “has going on behind our community, yet again, in a heavy industry zoning.” She asked that the Council considered zoning, “because if we keep doing the same thing, we’re gonna get the same thing. They don’t want an industrial facility right there beside their community suffering from cancer, and as a result of the creosote and other things from Del-Cook, so please consider that.”
Dr. Gear also noted they are concerned that people are starting to get light bills. “They are not happy because they’re having to pay the current bill plus 1/24 of the previous balance due,” she said.
“This was not well thought out because of the snafu in general and needs to be considered and looked at what we can do for these citizens,” she said. “This was created by the City, not by the people.
“Furthermore, the bill needs to be detailed so you know what you’re paying, what the current bill is, and then what your past due amount is. It’s not detailed, so nobody knows what in the world they’re paying, not to mention the questionability in the past that nobody could get in advance anyway.”
Addie Woods Mitchell said that after reading the proposed budget, what she saw was that “unfortunately, Jim Battle Park is yet again not budgeted.”
“This has been going on for years, and there have been letters and citizen requests,” she said. She added that “there are only two items there. There are many items that need to be addressed.”
She said she doesn’t know if there is a committee, “but we need to sit down and talk with them. There are no outside restrooms, and the inside is locked. No water fountains.”
She requested that concerned citizens “be able to sit down and go over the list. Some have said to tear the existing building down and start over. On two different times, there were problems with the building when it was going to be used.”
She added that there are three different age groups practicing ball at the facility and that “it is in no condition for them to be in.”
Mark Barber reminded the Council about the budget public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19. The final draft of the Fiscal Year 2023-24 proposed City of Adel budget was scheduled to be presented for adoption to the Mayor and Council at a special called meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, at 5:30 p.m.
Councilman McClain said there is a group of citizens who have interest in doing work at the Jim Battle Park at no cost. They would like to come to the next meeting and provide their plan.
Councilwoman Hayes questioned the amount of $175,000 for Jim Battle Park. She said last year, there was Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money given, and according to information from a work session, Jim Battle was supposed to receive anywhere from $150K – $200K.
“In April, we agreed to a $500K work program that was applied for,” Councilwoman Hayes said. “Then we had that in the paper last week listing the various improvements. It seems like there are three different localities where the money is coming from.”
Mark Barber explained that the $175K in the budget is the matching money that will be added to the grant. “What was in the paper is where in April, you guys agreed to apply for the LWCF grant, where we could have received up to $500K for recreation improvements, not all at Jim Battle, but a majority,” he said. “We made it through round 1 and have now moved to round 2. November is when we may find out if we made it through round 2.
“In the budget is the match for that, so we still have something in the budget we can use. We applied for $500K, but we didn’t get it; however, we will be getting a minimum of $178K if we make it through this next round.”
Councilwoman Hayes questioned the SPLOST dollars. Mark Barber said he is not aware of the SPLOST dollars, but is “not saying there is not an opportunity for that.”
Mayor Duke added that the SPLOST funds come in over a six-year period and noted it is used mainly for larger projects, such as the new recreation facility. Improvements for Jim Battle will be strictly from city funds.
Mark Barber explained that “even if we don’t receive the grant, we do have something budgeted to get some projects going. If we get the $178K, we will add that to the $175 budgeted for the match part.”
There was no further business, and the meeting was adjourned.