City of Flemington Mayor and Council held a Special Workshop meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss the creation of a long-term City Master Plan. The meeting was held via Zoom.
Council woman Leigh Smiley opened the meeting stating that there is an urgent need to create the master plan to address the City’s rapid growth and need for revenue streams.
“Today’s focus is supposed to be on water and sewer, however based on the need of the city, I feel that we need to create and put together some type of master plan that will incorporate water and sewer, a fire department, police department and city Hall,” Smiley said. “I know we have some things in our comprehensive plan, but we have not put anything into action yet and moved forward. And because of that it has brought us to the place that we are right now. We are experiencing major growth and we have a need for more revenue. We have no city owned and controlled public utilities to pull any revenue from and no millage rate that has been imposed.”
Civil Engineer Marcus Sack, of Marcus E. Sack Engineering, told Mayor and Council that it would be best to start the plan now as it could take up to five years to be completed as they seek funding sources and identify priority projects.
Smiley said she understood it would take years and lots of money but if they didn’t start working on the plan now, the City would remain stuck where they are.
Mayor Paul Hawkins said the list of needs is a bit overwhelming and added that they would need to identify land areas for big projects like their own water tower fire and police department.
“There is so much,” Hawkins said of what needs to be done. “I’ve gone through this and gone through this…and at this time for the City of Flemington, I just can’t see it. For the future yes, I really do, and we are working toward that now.”
Council woman Rene Harwell said the City should plan to move forward in creating the master plan, especially knowing it will take years to complete.
“I know that we have a lot of priorities on our plate, but we need to put this in with our strategic plan and it needs to be a priority,” Harwell said. “I know it’s a long project but once it pays for itself, we are going to have a revenue stream and that is what we are looking for. We know that we need more revenue streams.”
Council member Gail Evans agreed that a plan needs to be put on paper and suggested that they seek guidance from experts or other cities that have experienced similar growth to help them prioritize their list of needs.
“Somebody needs to guide us through this and perhaps that is the Coastal Region Commission,” she said. “We used them a long time ago to come up with some plans.”
Dasher said he reached out to the CRC in Brunswick to get their opinion on their sudden growth and fees they currently pay to the City of Hinesville for water and other services a while back. He said he wasn’t sure if COVID has affected their staffing levels, but he has yet to hear back from the two people he spoke to. He added that he didn’t have much faith in using CRC right now.
However, Sack said to not count them out as they are a great resource especially for grant writing.
Harwell suggested the group reach out to neighboring cities to see how they got started and how long it took before they started seeing revenue.
Mayor and Council decided to each write out their list of priorities, future projects, needs and concerns and send them to Smiley.
Smiley will work with Sack in compiling the information and schedule a second workshop with financial advisor Doug Gephardt who works with several municipalities and who specializes in creating financial models for growing cities.
“You create that wish list and then he can create a model that looks at expenses and projected revenues based on whether it’s a millage rate or water and sewer or what have you. The nice thing about the models is that you can run different scenarios to see what that landscape looks like and figure out your priority list and how to go after them.”
Dasher added they should also develop a fact sheet of where the City is at right now.
“Population-wise, logistic-wise, our expansion plans, our present structure and send that fact sheet to him,” Dasher said.
Sack said Mayor and Council should also think outside of the box.
“Think about things you might not think you need but may want like a park,” he said.
Mayor and Council will plan to set up the next workshop as soon as possible to proceed with the plan.