City Talks Trash and Airport Expansion Issues

The Sylvester City Council met last Monday evening for their May work session. After hearing from Mr. Raymond Hill about the forthcoming city T.V. channel, the council turned their attention to the first item on the agenda: the library’s budget. After reviewing the request for an increase in funds, Mayor Bill Yearta stated the city and county usually contribute the same amount, $52,500, while the Board of Education provides $45,000 annually for the facility.
City Manager Debbie Bridges explained the library has applied for a grant, and the local match of funds is $60,500. Bridges said the library is not actually asking for an increase in funding. At this, Councilman Melvin Powell asked if the funds for the grant would be split between the three entities and the city manager stated the request did not specify, but these funds were usually split with the county and board of education in the past. Still, Mayor Yearta stated he would like to see more specific details on the matter before the issue was decided upon.
Next, the council heard from David Dent, a representative of the trash collection agency, Advanced Disposal. According to Dent, Advanced has served the city for the last four years, but in December of 2012, Advanced acquired Violia Environmental Services. At the time, Violia was the second largest waste disposal company in the nation. Now, Dent says the company has many more resources and a proven track record in the city of Sylvester.
Now, the city’s contract with Advanced is up for renewal. After describing his company’s familiarity with and contribution to the community, Dent requested the council renew their contract with Advanced. He says the company has also recently renewed a five year contract with the county.
Moving along with the agenda, the council heard from Karen Rackley and Karon Willis concerning new initiatives developing at the Chamber of Commerce. Immediately, Chamber Director Rackley expressed her appreciation for the city’s support. Then, Rackley discussed the chamber’s proposed budget. The director says the budget has been reduced due to a decrease in revenue from hotel and motel tax, as well as ABAC assuming the maintenance of Possum Poke.
The local chamber and EDA director also mentioned  the EDA recently applied for the property on Highway 82 to be deemed one of 27 GRAD ready sites in the state. This status would prove the site to be “shovel ready” for a potential business looking to locate in Worth County. The designation would also cut a year out of the zoning and building process.
Next, Karon Willis addressed the mayor and council on a new community initiative named “Leadership Worth.” After recently attending and graduating from a Leadership Georgia program, Willis found a similar Leadership Worth program had been previously established. But, the local program had since become defunct.
According to Willis, community leaders need to continue to learn and develop while also training future leaders of the community to step up and assume prominent roles when the time comes. Willis stated, “You may hold a position, but you don’t know what you can add to the community if you stop learning. And, that’s what this program is for: to target those people currently in leadership positions, and target people who are emerging leaders, and ultimately to target students within the community to create leaders as we move along.”
Eventually, Willis hopes to see the fledgling program become self-sustaining, but for now, the new initiative needs help. An estimated cost of $5,000 would cover the start up costs of the Worth Leadership Program.
After hearing from the chamber representatives, the city council members heard from Mr. Webby Hill about Family Visions Outreach. According to Hill, the local outreach program is sponsoring a free lunch program for Sylvester’s youth this summer. And, Shipp Park would be an ideal location for the program. Partnering with Georgia Nutrition (of Atlanta) to provide the meals, Family Visions would hand out meals from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and clean up the site after the event ended.
“We feed a lot of people over at Family Visions. We have families coming in every day,” Hill said. “We need Shipp Park for the program because I think the need is there.”
After hearing from the guest speakers, Mayor Yearta mentioned the MEAG Year End Settlement. With the largest return ever, the mayor recommended putting the funds into the flexible account. Yearta also says the money will be used to alleviate budget issues in the upcoming year.
The council then heard from the city’s Financial Director Randall Sampson with the new director’s first financial report. According to Sampson, the city is more or less on target for the budget as the fiscal year ends.
Finally, City Manager Debbie Bridges gave a report on the proposed airport expansion. Bridges attended a pre-bid meeting on the afternoon of Monday, May 6, and 12 contractors expressed interest in the project. However, she stated a recent soil sample revealed an issue with the soil. The mayor responded, “It’s a little disappointing to me to find that our soil is not proper at this point when we’re ready to bid the thing out… Here we are, we have an idea of what it will cost. Now we’re looking at a big, big increase that we may not be able to afford. That should have been determined first thing, because we knew all along we were going to use our own soil out there… I’m just saying in a nice way, that’s very disappointing.”
These issues will be further discussed and voted upon during the city’s regular meeting on May 20, at 7 p.m.