The Ludowici City Council recently approved several changes during its first meeting of the year.
City hall now will be open during lunchtime hours and will stay open until 2 p.m. Fridays. The council approved the change unanimously.
The office previously was closed from noon-1 p.m. during the week and closed at noon Fridays. Now, the office is open from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays.
The council also unanimously approved the hiring of Savannah-based certified public accounting firm Holland, Henry and Bromley to correct the accounting system so the 2011 audit can be completed. The hiring of the firm follows reports in November and December from Karp, Ronning and Tindal’s Chris Lytle, who said the city’s finances and bookkeeping records had several problems.
Meanwhile, the council adopted the 2012 budget with a 3-2 vote, but Councilman Mark Chesser questioned the budget-adoption process. He said it was his understanding the council needed to hold two public meetings before the members could vote on the budget. Mayor James Fuller rebutted, saying that the city’s auditor told him that the current meeting could stand as a public hearing and that the budget could be voted on.
Councilman Frank McClelland Jr. said the budget needed to be approved, even if corrections were being made by the CPA. The budget passed; if necessary, pending options could be made by amending the budget.
Council members McClelland, Mary Hamilton and Gwen Davis voted in favor, while Johnny Manning and Chesser opposed.
The council also approved the appointment of former City Councilman Jim Fuller Jr. as the judge pro tem for the city. Fuller Jr. will stand in for City Recorder Judge Larry Fowler when he is not present. Manning questioned the item and said Fuller Jr. is not eligible to serve in the position, but the mayor said he is indeed eligible.
The measure passed 3-2 with McClelland, Hamilton and Davis voting in favor of the appointment, while Manning and Chesser voted against it.
The council unanimously voted to appoint Hamilton to the city’s mayor pro tem position. When a second motion was made for her to receive an extra $100 per month for taking on the position, it passed with a 3-2 vote. McClelland, Davis and Hamilton voted in favor of the raise, while Chesser and Manning opposed.
The council also took action on two vacated positions: water superintendent and chief of police. Manning made a motion to hire local businessman Charlie Smith as the new water superintendent, and Chesser seconded the motion. The mayor said Smith wasn’t certified to hold the job and hadn’t submitted an application.
Chesser said Smith did submit an application and that he could meet the qualifications once he was hired, but city clerk Cindy McClelland said city hall had not received the application.
The vote failed 3-2 with McClelland, Davis and Hamilton opposing.
The city will operate under Fuller’s certification because he previously held that position.
The council also appointed investigator Diannia Duncan as the interim police chief for the department under a rehiring measure. It passed 3-2 with McClelland, Davis and Hamilton voting in favor, while Manning and Chesser opposed.
In other business, the council:
• at the request of Fuller, voted 4-1 to change the name of the city hall council room/courtroom to the Myrtice Warren City Council Room in honor of the previous mayor. Manning opposed the measure.
• approved 3-2 the rehiring of Joe Kitchings as the city’s attorney.
• unanimously approved Coastal Empire Fire Security, a Savannah-based company, to repair the audio/video recording system in the Myrtice Warren City Council Room.
• unanimously voted to hold a public meeting to discuss raising the sewage rate to meet grant-funding qualifications. The grant would be used to make the city’s drainage system compliant with required guidelines.
• unanimously approved to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order for managing its meetings.
• unanimously approved to replace the rolling steel door at the fire department next to the police department.