Discussions about Hinesville’s public-works contractor, OMI, once again prompted heated exchanges during Thursday’s city council meeting.
Originally listed as an information item, the CHM2HILL contract was brought up in response to questions about the contract by Councilman Keith Jenkins and Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier. Jenkins noted that the contract was approved by the council in 2006 and said he thought it was supposed to be a five-year contract.
“That means the contract expired in 2011,” Jenkins said. “If it was renewed, it should have come through this body, and I can’t recall a motion to extend the contract.”
Frasier said he understood the council didn’t have any objections to extending the contract in 2011, but he also didn’t recall a vote to extend it.
City Manager Billy Edwards said the OMI contract was for five years with an option to extend it for five more. He told the council members the contract was extended as part of the budget discussion process in 2011, and that a formal vote was not necessary to extend it.
Jenkins said he has concerns about OMI’s performance. Frasier asked the council to have an outside agency study the work requirements for a public-works contractor to determine if it is more economical for the city to resume public-works operations.
Discussion continued, and Jenkins insisted he still was troubled that he didn’t know the contract had been extended. Mayor Jim Thomas assured him that his comments and concerns were being recorded in the meeting’s minutes. He told Frasier and the rest of the council he would make a proposal to the council to contract with a third-party agency to study the feasibility of the city taking over its public-works operations.
Heated discussion about OMI began in November when Allenhurst resident Jack Scott complained to the council that some OMI employees did not get an annual raise. Edwards responded that the 1.5 percent cost-of-living raises given to city employees did not affect contract employees, such as those at OMI. OMI Director Gregg Higgins said his company gives merit raises only, not cost-of-living raises. Jenkins and Frasier said they were not aware that contract employees were exempt from cost-of-living raises.
In December, Scott again appeared before the council, this time charging OMI with racial discrimination. He said other minority employees were too intimidated to complain. Jenkins and Frasier called for OMI management to appear before the council.
More details on the OMI contract and recent discussions about OMI at city council meetings will be included in Wednesday’s Coastal Courier.
Action items approved by the council Thursday included a special permit for Last Days Full Gospel Apostolic Ministry to expand their church and make use of two small parcels of land adjoining the church. The council also approved a rezoning request for .15 acres of land on Sherwood Drive and a 2013 peddler’s license for representatives of United Distributors Inc. to sell water-treatment systems door-to-door.
The council began its meeting with a 15-minute presentation by Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis on the market analysis conducted by Arnett Muldrow & Associates.
She reported there are potential market opportunities for a sporting-goods store, a hobby-and-crafts store, a bookstore and full-service restaurants. She responded to specific questions by Frasier and Councilman Jason Floyd, explaining that development along Memorial Drive hinged on renovations of the county library and the annex for Armstrong Atlantic State University.