Riceboro has a nice brick city hall. Flemington has turned an old house into a quaint city hall. Ludowici has a city hall, and Hinesville has a brand-new three-story city hall. Even Mayor Pike in Mayberry R.F.D. had an office upstairs in the brick courthouse. Where is the Midway city hall? In — of all places — a shopping mall.
Why is the Midway city hall in a shopping center rather than a nice building? Lack of planning — that’s why. The mayor knew that the building the city occupied belonged to the county and was slated for renovation. Yet no money was budgeted for a new city hall. In fact, the city offices were moved into their new home at the last minute — just under the wire. Although Clemontine Washington has been mayor for only two years, she has known for six years that this day would come.
There is no money for a new city hall in the 2012 budget, but $14,100 is budgeted for travel and $25,370 for dues and fees. I would like the mayor to tell us what is so important that the city must waste money on travel, dues and fees rather than spend it on a new city hall.
Why is the city paying the Liberty County Planning Commission $13,200 in fees? The LCPC is a group that helps plan “future growth and economic development that preserves and protects our natural resources while it ensures and enhances the quality of life for all of our citizens,” according to its website. I believe in protecting the environment, but not at this price. Midway can handle its own zoning at no additional cost.
Looking at the 2012 budget, I noticed that the city is budgeting $10,400 for a part-time assistant for the city clerk. If the city clerk had a more efficient filing system, this position would not be needed. Every city document should be saved in the city’s computer and could be printed in a matter of minutes if requested. The city clerk would not have to spend hours looking for hard copies of documents.
In March 2010, City Financial Director Gwendolyn Lowe presented a comprehensive plan on how to fund a new city hall, police station and fire department in one building with common areas. Her plan was dismissed by Mayor Washington.
Mr. Alex Daman of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government was hired by the city council to evaluate city employee wages. Basically, he recommended wage increases across the board of 5.8 percent in a down economy. According to the Department of Labor, the consumer price index is 3.4 percent as of Dec. 16. Mr. Daman’s backup recommendation is an increase of 2.9 percent, which is more in line with the consumer price index. The report suggested that the police chief and finance director are underpaid and their wages should be modified. I agree with that, but I object to any proposal that gives raises for tenure rather than performance.
The city is budgeting $1,320 to rent a storage unit. Why? Doesn’t the city have sufficient storage space? If they truly need one, the city can buy a storage unit for a lot less at Lowe’s.
The 2012 budget was approved just days before 2011 ended. I’m sure more questions will surface in the months to come.
Calderone is a conservative who lives in Midway. He is a professional salesperson and for 30 years has written articles for trade publications in various fields.