The Midway City Council approved a $2.9 million budget Dec. 27 during a special meeting.
The 2013 budget includes raises for all employees, a new police car and funds for street lighting. About $25,000 was budgeted to give Midway’s employees a one-notch pay increase as recommended by the Carl Vinson Institute, which did a comprehensive study of city personnel and compensation.
Officials said the Midway Police Department has several vehicles with more than 180,000 miles on them that have frequent problems and require expensive repairs. Lease/purchase of a new police car was written into the budget document.
Also, new street lights were funded at an estimated $1,500. Council members discussed installing 10 new street lights. Councilman Terry Doyle is a longtime proponent of improved street lighting and has presented statistics on the number of street lights provided in different areas of Midway. Examples include a comparison of the Lyman Hall subdivision, which Doyle says has one light for every 98 homes, and the Martin Road area, where he says the ratio is one street light for every 1.3 homes.
A $12,000 revenue line item from Liberty County represented the council’s split vote adopting the annual fire-protection service agreement. Under the agreement, Liberty County pays separate fire departments, such as Midway’s, for providing protection in the unincorporated area. Doyle has been critical of the agreement, which he said was, “a gold mine for the county and the shaft for Midway.” He voted no; council members Curtes Roberts, Levern Clancy and Melice Gerace voted yes.
Further council action also dealt with fire protection, as the countywide fire-protection plan was rejected unanimously. Gerace, the council’s fire-department liaison, made a motion “to keep our volunteer department and not allow the county to take over.”
Roberts seconded the motion, and all members voted yes. The plan, a major county initiative, was written in early 2008 to have full-time firefighters serve the county’s unincorporated area. The new Gum Branch fire station built with SPLOST funds was part of the plan, but Midway was the first municipality asked to place its fire protection in county hands.
Then-Commission Chairman John McIver, County Administrator Joey Brown and Fire Services Coordinator James Ashdown made several visits to council meetings to explain the plan and answer questions.
Another budget item was a $900,000 low-interest Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan the city sought to pay for drilling a deep well into the Lower Floridan aquifer. Midway depends on a single well for its water supply; in case of problems with that well, it uses water from the Liberty County Development Authority.
The sharing of water and treatment services between the authority and Midway is the subject of ongoing negotiations by the two bodies. Midway officials met Dec. 4 with Bill Powell of the Georgia Rural Water Association as a third party.
Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington, who attended, said, “Everyone left the meeting feeling good about our progress.”
The task force plans to meet again soon.
The disagreement goes back at least to 2004 and, on Nov. 13, 2009, council voted unanimously to break off talks with the authority and instruct attorneys to begin mediation. The current council began discussions with authority officials and reduced Midway’s claims from $2,353,476 to $286,851. In May 2012, however, all council members voted to stop negotiations and proceed with mediation.
In June, the council received a request from its lawyer for documents to be used in discussions with LCDA attorney Kelly Davis. The council voted unanimously again not to provide documents, but to again demand mediation.
At the council’s regular December meeting, Washington reported that Midway’s share of the Local Option Sales Tax would be 3.085 percent, a small increase over the previous figure.
The mayor also reported on the Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program for fiscal year 2013. Statewide, $110.6 million was appropriated to be shared among local governments, with a 30 percent local match required.
With a 2011 Census estimated population of 2,185 and eight miles of eligible road, Midway would be able to apply for $13,730 in LMIG funds. Midway plans to spend its LMIG money on Old Sunbury Trail in the Lake Gale area.