At the Tuesday, July 12, Walthourville City Council meeting, Fire Chief Gary Fairchild said staffing was becoming an issue at his fire station.
“We are losing people,” he said. “And the reason we are losing people is our personnel are becoming more certified, and they are moving on to other counties and other places.”
Fairchild said the department is down to 12, and only nine are in certified positions. He said the state requires a minimum of six certified positions to maintain a department. Fairchild plans to present a five-year plan at a future meeting that will enable him to grow the department and have it properly funded to maintain firefighters and grow with the city’s growth.
He also addressed hurricane preparedness, saying the city would follow the plans already set in place by the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management. He said he has tasked his department with making a list of residents within the city who have special needs and will place those residents on a priority list in case of evacuations.
City Clerk Shana Moss said the city continues to address its water issues. They have been working with a new company, EOM out of Richmond Hill, and many of the issues are starting to be resolved. Moss said the city had been using the same company for many years without getting the results they need, so she researched and found that EOM was a better company and less expensive. She said they are also much quicker in their response time and have already fixed three low water- pressure problems.
Liberty County Attorney Kelly Davis then presented the mayor and council with the proposed allocation for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to the City of Walthourville should the measure be passed again in the November election. The city is to receive $1.13 million.
Funds were added to cover recreational facilities under the new allocation. Councilwoman Luciria Lovette asked about these funds, and Mayor Pro-Tem Sarah B. Hayes explained that when meetings were held to discuss the budget, they noticed no funds had been allocated for the Recreation Department. Knowing some facilities need improvements, they made sure to allocate some funds to cover those needs. Mayor and council then voted to adopt the SPLOST 7 agreement.
Mayor and council also approved a homebased office for a freight logistics service company, a home-based office for an online shopping sales boutique, and a full hair and beauty salon on West Oglethorpe Highway.
Lovette asked about mosquito spraying in the city and was told the chemical needed has been on backorder since April.
She said she learned that there is a grant available for parks and recreation while attending the Georgia Municipal Association conference. She said that in order to apply for the grant, she needs a grant writer, adding that the city hired one, but Police Chief Al Hagan said she only specializes in public safety grants.
Lovette questioned why the city hired this grant writer. City Attorney Luke Moses said the council voted to hire her unanimously, despite being told upfront during her hiring process that she specializes in one type of grant. Moses and Hagan said she has successfully collected $277,000 for the city for public safety.
Hayes said she took an online certification course to become a grant writer and would be willing to assist in the process, but as an elected official, she would not write a grant for the city due to legal conflicts. They also discussed the possibility of using an outside source to apply for a parks and recreation grant.
Hagan said that when he took over the department, he knew he needed more funds to grow it and recommended hiring the grant writer, knowing she specialized in public safety.
Hagan reported the department had its first class of graduates from the citizens academy. He thanked Mayor Larry Baker and his wife, Brenda, who attended the citizens academy, and encouraged council members to participate in the next one.
Hagan then introduced four new police officers recently hired by the city, all of whom he said graduated at the top of their class. Now a 24-hour police department for the first time ever, it employs eight full-time and two part-time officers.
Lovette thanked residents who nominated and supported her induction into the GMA Municipal Government Hall of Fame, which recognizes municipal officials who have made extraordinary contributions to municipal government and have been strong supporters of GMA. Both elected and appointed city officials with at least 15 years of municipal government service in Georgia are eligible. City officials who were only able to serve eight years due to term limits are also eligible for consideration. All past presidents of GMA are members of the Municipal Government Hall of Fame and are automatically inducted.